Friday, May 29, 2009

John, chapter 18


It is hard for us to live with it in our lives. I have experienced it before, and it is one of the worst feelings I have ever had. There is confusion, anger, sorrow, and a ton of other emotions wrapped into that moment. You don’t know what to do next and you even question if God really know what he is doing. To me, it is one of the worst things we can do to another human being.

No take all that and multiply it infinitely. That is what we have today in John 18 with Jesus betrayal by Judas. Jesus knew that it was going to happen. He knew the exact result of it, and how God would use it this ultimate evil to perform the act of ultimate good. Still, it is no less heartbreaking. It is an attempt by mankind’s evil nature to tarnish the good, perfect image of Christ.

28Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. – John 18:28

I wanted to focus on this verse because I find it sad, but incredibly funny. The Pharisees were all in favor of killing an innocent man simply because they didn’t agree with Him. Jesus was a threat tot heir power because He had different ideas, so in their eyes he must be killed. They had no problem ignoring that little commandment of “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. Ask these guys to enter the Roman palace, however, and suddenly they grow a conscience.

Through all this, however, we continue to see Jesus’ calm demeanor. He had had His moment of fear while praying in the garden, but God strengthened Him to face this ordeal. If God can do something like that in the face of the world’s greatest injustice, imagine what He can do when we seek Him.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

John, chapter 17

The power of prayer continues to amaze me. I have recently tried to improve my prayer life through a 40 day course I am taking, and it is helping. I was simply tired of my prayer life being so unfocused. I needed more guidance and structure so it would have more meaning.

I should have read John 17, however, because it is amazing to watch Jesus prayer just before His Crucifixion. First, we see Him pray for Himself. I cannot imagine the anguish He was feeling in that moment. Here we have someone who is fully God, yet He is asking for help in something. That kind of blows my mind, honestly. I can’t imagine Him needing help for anything.

Next, Jesus prays both for His disciples and for all believers. He makes it a special point not to pray for the world. I think it is because He knew the world as a whole was sinful and lost. It is individual believers, like You and me, that needs this prayer to navigate through a lost world such as this. I leave you with His words today.

9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11I 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. 12While 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. – John 17:9-12

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

John, chapter 16

I apologize for being away the past few days. Once again, life has gotten in the way of my more important work here. I have no recourse, so I apologize.

Today’s lesson focuses primarily on the Holy Spirit and its role once Jesus’ earthly ministry was over. Sometimes, the role of the Holy Spirit is the hardest to grasp in the Trinity. We know the Father is the Creator God. We know Jesus is His Son and is both fully God and fully man. With the Holy Spirit, however, we are unsure as to its role. I have always understood it to be a kind of conscience. It is a guiding force that we listen for in the quiet moments when we are seeking God’s direction.

12"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. – John 16:12-15

So how do we listen for the Spirit? I admit, sometimes it is difficult to quiet myself and actively seek this voice even when I desperately need to do so. It is something I have tried to seek the past few days in order to combat my feelings of despair and depression, and so far it has worked well. Jesus promises us in this chapter that if we seek Him, He will find us. If we seek the Spirit of Truth, that truth will implant itself on our hearts. It will not happen immediately, but it will happen.

That also links into the pain factor that Jesus reference’s in the final part of this chapter. There are times where I feel like this life is nothing but pain. I struggle to see the joy even in daily things that should bring joy. I hold on tot his promise that it is only temporary, however. I feel like temporary is bordering on forever at the moment, but Jesus’ words here promise me that I will not have to live this temporary life forever. I am His, and because of that I will receive His wisdom and guidance.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

John, chapter 15

Are you fruitful? I have asked that question about myself as I approach a very important period in my life. It is appropriate that I am touching on this topic right now. Because of a commitment this summer, I am likely available for the next 7 weeks without any form of a job. My temp agency usually finds me long term stuff, so unless I get a short-term assignment in that time I have a lot of time on my hands. I am using it for job-hunting, but more importantly I am using this as a time to center myself on God since I feel like I have fallen far away from Him in the past few months.

In this time, I want to examine other ways I can be fruitful. Once we get back from this summer commitment I know there are going to be some massive life changes that I must face. I also know that there is absolutely no way we can face them unless god comes through to provide for us. In that, I long to be fruitful and support those around me. I want to get God back in my heart instead of toiling away in the darkness of my own spirit as I have done for far too long. I admit that I am a person that regularly fights depression and hopelessness. After three days of this new refocusing, however, nearly nine months of depression has started to fade away.

5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. – John 15:5-8

There are few words truer than these. Apart from God, I can do nothing. Apart from God, I spend my days wasting my life in my apartment fruitlessly searching for something that I cannot find. This is exactly why I am desperately seeking to reconnect with God. I am tired of living a life that does not bear fruit. I know, deep within me, that I am built for more than this. With God’s help I will find that worth.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

John, chapter 14

Our faith is built on a promise. It is built on the promise that Jesus will intercede with God on our behalf if we believe in Him and His sacrifice. You can write hundreds of words on that subject, but that is the basic point of Christianity. All we must do is believe. We cannot find favor with God through a sacrifice we make, or through any other earthly action. It is Jesus’ way or no way.

John 14 Is Jesus’ closing speech to his disciples. It occurs on the night of the Last Supper and is done in the presence of all the disciples except for Judas. This is a speech that oozes Jesus’ love for mankind, and its beauty is only darkened by the fact that while He was giving this message Judas was committing the worst act in the history of humanity by betraying Him.

23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. – John 14:23-24

This is the only reason we have hope for humanity. I admit that in days where I am depressed I have trouble seeing this hope. I have trouble seeing this promise as being little more than dusty words on a page. In that, I ask myself what we have to risk by believing? The answer is nothing. If we believe and this promise isn’t real we have no hope anyway, so why not place our hope in Jesus?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

John, Chapter 13

I have long talked about Jesus’ humility. It is this humility that allowed Him to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Could he have absolved us of our sins in another way? Of course! He is the Son of God. God could have chosen another way in which we find salvation, say if we all had to wear a live chicken on our heads for a month. It’s absurd, but if that is what God decided it would work.

That method, and most any other, would have been based on works though. As we know, salvation cannot be based on works because we are born into a sinful world with sinful natures. Only God, through a loving act of kindness, can provide a way to separate us from our sins. It had to be a sacrifice, since the ultimate wages of sin is death. We see the epitome of that humble nature on display as Jesus prepares for His sacrifice not by looking into Himself, but by continuing to serve those around Him.

12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. – John 13:12-16

Jesus knew this was going to be the last night before his death. He knew what He had to face, yet He was still serving. Many people when facing death want to do something solely for themselves. Jesus does the opposite. Here is the most powerful man that ever lived, yet he reduces Himself to serve in a slave’s role to wash the feet of his disciples. He wanted to set before them one final example of what they were supposed to do in serving the church from that point forward.

Monday, May 18, 2009

John, Chapter 12 part 2

What was the world like before Jesus was here? What hope did we have for eternal life? We know the Jews had their system of cleansing and sacrifice that had to be continually repeated, but the Bible says very little about those that are not Jewish. There was no covenant in place for the gentiles as many of us are. John 12 addresses that.

31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. – John 12:31-33

The prince of this world that Jesus mentions is sin. We were all slaves to it, and there was no way to break the bondage of sin without Christ’s promise. It was in his sinless, perfect death that the chains of sin were broken. Jesus saw this from the beginning of His life. The events of this chapter are the culmination of His mission and reason for being.

44Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. – John 12:44-46

I am trying something this week in order to break out of a stagnant funk I have been in. Because of commitments later this summer, I likely have no work for the next eight weeks. God has still provided for me financially, so I am trying to use this time to actively seek His purpose in my life. Today day one of a forty day period (it is 40 weekdays from now until my next big commitment) that I am committing myself to seeking His light instead of the darkness of my life. He is a light, too. Lately, I have struggled in the darkness of my own soul. It has not been a pretty place, either. I know over the next eight weeks there are a lot of major life changes and life decisions that need to be made. The scary part is that I am overwhelmed by them. I have absolutely no idea how the changes can be pulled off, what decisions are going to be made, or how God is going to provide for the changes. I don’t even know where the doors to this new path are, let alone how to open them. All I know is that I have this promise, this power of God’s light, to guide me. Something tells me for now it is enough.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

John, Chapter 12 part 1

If not for what followed, this first part of John 12 would be a welcome relief compared to the rest of the gospel. In this part, Jesus receives much due praise for the miracles that were performed. Unfortunately, it is all window-dressing as much of the praise He receives is merely a fulfillment of prophesy. In this part we see His anointing as well as His triumphal entry into Jerusalem before His death.

3Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. – John 12:3

I wanted to include this passage because it is simply a beautiful act carried out by Mary. Jesus’ inner circle was far from the wealthy of society. Many of them barely had enough to get by every day. This perform had unfathomable earthly wealth, yet Mary used the entire jar in order to anoint Jesus with it. The act of submission by using her hair is significant as well. Mary truly loved Jesus as her savior, and she serves as an example to all of us in this act. She was willing to give up most everything she had of value and bow before His feet. That is an example we would be wise to follow.

16At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. – John 12:16

It is wonderful hat Jesus received such an entry here, but the praise was shallow based on the events of his death. Many of these people were the same people that would later call to crucify Him just a few days later. Jesus knew this prophesy as well. I cannot imagine the hurt He was feeling in His heart as He made this entrance. This is yet another example of His humility. If you’ll notice, it is the one time He welcomed the praise heaped upon Him instead of deflecting it to the Father.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John, chapter 11

The more that I study the gospels I see Jesus’ humility. That is His greatest attribute. Yes, He was all-powerful. He had wisdom, strength, courage, conviction, and was sent by God Himself. Still, He never boasted of this. When he stated His credentials, as I like to call them, He stated them merely to say who he was. It was more like a business card than a boast. In every chapter here in the book of John we see Jesus’ humility. That carries over to today in chapter 11, when he performs perhaps His greatest miracle.

We all know the story of Lazarus. He died, but Jesus raised him from the dead in front of everyone. We see the details today that make that story so much better, however. Jesus could have made a number of different choices, such as coming back to Bethany sooner or even acting from a distance, but his choices were made for two purposes. First, He wanted to give maximum glory to God. Second, He wanted to leave little doubt of who He was. These were proven in verse six.

4When 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." – John 11:4

That is the entire point of this story right there. Lazurus did eventually die again. There are no reports of him still kicking around great Jerusalem. The point of the story was not that Lazurus got a brief reprieve from death. It was to glorify God and prove Jesus’ divinity. We also see that it acted as kind of the final straw for the Pharisees as they began plotting to kill him. In doing so, they failed to recognize God’s glory even though they were the ones who were supposed to recognize it first.

Monday, May 11, 2009

John, chapter 10

I feel almost embarrassed to come here today. A major reason there was no entry the last two days of last week was because this has been another bad week for me. I have separated myself from God and tried to do things on my own once again. You would think that after the number of times this has ended in failure I would have learned my lesson, but that is not the case. I feel unworthy to even study the Word today. That attitude is something that has to change if I am ever going to get out of my mental funk.

Ironically, this actually fits in with today’s lesson about the shepherd and his flock. One of the things I pride myself on is not being a member of today’s sheep. I don’t sit here in life and blindly follow the trends of the world. I often rebel, even if sometimes I rebel just for the sake of rebelling. When I get in a mood like have been in this week, however, I really I am being a sheep. I am falling into the ways of the world and succumbing to the temptations of sin. It really is like being attacked, at least mentally, by wolves.

25Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30I and the Father are one." – John 10:25-30

Am I one of Jesus’ sheep? I think the reason even Christians can fall astray is a simple one. Though we agree to become sheep of Jesus, we still cannot ever fully separate ourselves from sinful human nature this side of heaven. Yes we still hear Jesus’ voice, but we are not strong enough in our own capacity to avoid the temptations of this world 100% of the time. We will fall. There is no doubt about it. That is why I am frustrated by Christians who consider themselves perfect. They often have lost sight of the author and perfector of their faith and believe that they have reached this plateau all by themselves. I am not saying all Christians are this way, but some definitely are. The truth is that even after we accept Christ, we still must be humble and know that we are still not perfect. We are merely justified in the blood of Christ. There is a big difference there.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

John, chapter 9

I hate details and minutiae. There was a time in college when such things cost me an entire letter grade on a math exam. I had answered the question correctly and showed how I had arrived at my answer, but I received no credit on that question because I didn’t use the method they wanted me to use. As a result, I got a B instead of an A, and it knocked down my overall grade for the class as well. I thought this was ridiculous. What did it matter what method I used as long as I arrived at the right answer?

We see a similar situation with today’s lesson. In it, Jesus performs a miracle by healing a man who was born blind. I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty amazed by this. If it happened in front of me, I would definitely be in awe of the person who did it, as well as curious about the man that was healed. Is this the attitude the Pharisees took? Of course not.

13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath. 15Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I see."

16Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath."
But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided. – John 9:13-16

How short-sighted can these people be? As we see throughout the chapter, they are more concerned with how he got healed and why he was healed as opposed to the fact that he was healed. As usual, the lesson in this chapter comes from the metaphor of healing. The man that was blind not only sees physically, but he is able to see spiritually that Jesus came to save the world. The Pharisees remained blind to this fact even though they could see physically.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

John, chapter 8 part 2

Today we see one of the most confrontational pictures of Jesus found in Scripture. IN today’s passage he is speaking directly to the Pharisees in the Temple and essentially tears down their entire belief structure. He accused them of not being children of Abraham, a man revered in almost God-like status tot hem. He also called them children of the Devil. As usual, Jesus easily deflects their arguments in an attempt to direct them back to the path they had lost.

So why is Jesus so confrontational here? Why did he bicker with the Pharisees, while He simply spoke with the common man. Along that line, many times the common man is what followed Him, while the spiritual leaders (the ones that should have known Him) stayed away. They even ended up being the ones that killed Him. I think he was so confrontational because the Pharisees weren’t going to listen to anything else. When Jesus spoke with the common man, like the woman at the well a few chapters ago, They were often already receptive to what He had to say. The Pharisees feared losing their power. They needed more drastic measures if they were going to listen.

34Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” – John 8:34-38

This is just before Jesus calls them children of the Devil. He was right, of course. As humans, we are children of the Devil because we are born in bondage to sin. Jesus’ words about sin here are 100% accurate. I have seen the effect sin can have in life and it is not pretty. To this day I still battle my own sin even though I have done my best to stay away from it. As Jesus promised, however, He as the Son sets us free.

Another important point from the rest of this chapter is that Jesus does not accept the recognition and glory for Himself. He always directs it tot eh Father. Yes, Jesus was the Son of God and had extraordinary power. Still, even He recognized that He was nothing without the Father behind Him. All glory was given to the Father, and when we glorify Christ we glorify the Father through Him because of His humble nature.

Monday, May 4, 2009

John, chapter 8 part 1

We are not perfect. There isn’t a single one among us that is without sin. Unfortunately, it is part of human nature that we feel the need to cast judgment on people. Sometimes it is not even a scathing judgment like we see with the adulterous woman at the beginning of John 8. It can be as simple as walking in a crowd with some friends, seeing someone different walking by, and sharing a, “Get a load of THAT guy,” moment with everyone else in your group. It just happens.

We see that judgmental nature in action at the beginning of John 8. An adulterous woman is brought into the courts. Mosaic Law stated that it was perfectly legal, even required, that she be stoned to death. Jesus was there, however, and with just a few words, taught how things were going to be different. Jesus came and overwrote Mosaic Law because in essence, He was the law.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
11"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." – John 8:7-11

Remember, we are to hate the sing, but love the sinner. As we learned earlier in this very book, Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to say it. If anyone had the authority to condemn this woman it was Jesus. Instead, He embraced her as someone who was lost and needed a new direction.

The second part of this opening deals with Jesus being questioned on His authority. I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions, as Jesus said His testimony was not only His own, but His Father’s as well. Because He was sent by the Father, that alone was enough.

Friday, May 1, 2009

John 7

John 7 is another exercise in listening. In this chapter, Jesus visits the feat of the Tabernacles in secret, though He still speaks to the crowd. It is interesting to see this because when Jesus speaks, he almost speaks out of frustration. We always think of Jesus speaking calmly and rationally, but here it is almost like He loses His patience for the crowd He is talking to.

21Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. 22Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. 23Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? 24Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." – John 7:21-24

Can you see the frustration here? Jesus knew of the hypocrisy that the people were talking about. As I mentioned yesterday, Jesus wanted to grow and think beyond what they were told. This was a radical idea at the time, as regular people being involved with worship and church affairs was unheard of. They were supposed to bray it up with the other sheep and regurgitate what the religious leaders of the day told them.

In this section Jesus is asking for us to think for ourselves. We are only accountable for ourselves, so it is important that we make our own judgments instead of blindly following the teaching others. We are supposed to ask questions and form opinions. If we don’t do so there is no way we can grow into a relationship with Christ.