Wednesday, February 29, 2012

John 6:10-15

In yesterday’s verses we saw that when Jesus turned to Philip, asking him what could be done to feed the massive crowd, Philip had no idea. He was looking at the problem and not to the Source of the solution. Yet, Jesus did not rebuke him or throw him out of the twelve as a failure of faith. In fact, He used Philip to accomplish this miracle we’re going to witness this morning! You have to figure that at least ten of the other disciples were probably nodding their heads in agreement with Philip, right?

I love what Jon Courson says about this! “Jesus didn’t say to His disciples, ‘ You bozos. Get out of the way and let Me do a miracle.’ No, He met them where they were and said, ‘Even though you don’t have the faith to see what I can do with the little given to Me, I’ll use you anyway. Could you make the people sit down? Could I use you in that way?’ ” (Courson, P. 482)

And that’s just what happened:

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. (John 6:10-13)

Don’t you love the orderliness of our God? He wanted everyone to sit quietly to be fed, in the same way that He wants us to be still so He can feed us. And then, He doesn’t want anything wasted, but all leftovers gathered. I think He inspired Tupperware! So, He has the disciples get the people to sit in groups of fifty (Luke 9:14), then He models what we need to do when we are insufficient or lack what we need to accomplish our task, He gave thanks to the Father! 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thank in everything! Again, I turn to Courson’s take on this, because it’s right on and so encouraging:

“So, too, regarding your dilemma, your frustration, your fear - do what Jesus did. Lift up your eyes and say, ‘Thank you, Father, that You’re going to take care of this situation. I know You will. You are faithful. You have never let me down but have done exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ask or think. When I thought I couldn’t make it, You pulled me through. When I thought I was going under, You pulled me up. When I thought I was out of it, You pulled me back.” (P.489)

Now, when Philip was not able to see an answer at the outset, note that Jesus already knew what He was going to do and how He was going to do it. Philip was one of the twelve who witnessed the miracle first hand. And he was one of the twelve who gathered the overflowing leftovers (exceeding abundantly, indeed!) in a basket. Don’t you love that EACH of the disciples was given a basket of leftovers to grow his faith?

So whatever our situation, whatever miracle we need, God KNOWS what He is going to do and how He is going to do it - exceedingly abundantly, of course! Even if we lack faith or have just enough faith to bring our few loaves and fishes, He can and will use us if we’ll just obey the small tasks He gives us. I’m believing that God will use our little faith and do GIANT miracles for baby Royce and for our little kindergartner, Valen, who is so sick. Keep praying and giving thanks in EVERYTHING!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

John 6:1-9

In chapter 5 Jesus focused on the healing of one man; in fact, he sought him out in the temple after he healed him. Then He dealt with the unbelief of the religious leaders. In chapter 6 a crowd seeks Jesus out and we see Him withdrawing from the crowd, even as He has compassion on them.

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. (John 6:1-6)

As the crowds began to press around Jesus, he needed a retreat, so He took His disciples up on a mountainside to get some rest. Rest was important to Jesus, and He modeled here the need to take it - even when there is so much to do. In fact, precisely because there IS so much that demands our time and attention, Jesus continues to offer us rest.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt 11:28)

Be still and know that I am God... (Psalm 46:10)

When Jesus saw the crowds had followed Him, instead of seeing them as a burden, He saw them as sheep without a shepherd, and even though they were seeking Him for His miracles and provision, rather than for Himself, He still met their needs! But He was first going to test the disciples. He asked Philip where they should go to buy bread, and Philip saw only the problem, and figured the only solution would be money!

Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (vs. 7)

Andrew did a little better. At least he saw a possibility:

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (vs.8-9)

However, notice the “but” in the middle of his sentence! “Here’s something, BUT...” Jon Courson writes, “How easily the word ‘but’ creeps into our thinking. We are aware of the provision, but we start raising objections when we look at the situation practically.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 482)

Throughout the Bible God uses something “little” to do something huge! In fact, He chose the Israelites, precisely BECAUSE they were a little nation. David was the runt of the litter in his family, but he was chosen by God to become king. With only five smooth stones in his hand (and only using ONE of those), David slew Goliath. Gideon used a teeny army to rout a large enemy. And Jesus used just five SMALL loaves and two SMALL fish to feed over 5,000 people!

When we are looking for a miracle, let’s not OVERLOOK the small! What has God given you to work that miracle you are seeking. Is your faith SMALL? Ask Him to enlarge it by HIS power. We have been asking for some mighty miracles for Baby Royce this week. Let’s bring our small faith to our Mighty God, and watch Him work!

Monday, February 27, 2012

John 5:39-47

Thanks to all of you who are praying for baby Royce and his family. I have not had an update from Pammie, but will keep you informed. Keep praying that God Almighty will work a miracle in his little body!

We finish up chapter 5 today. In this last part of the passage, Jesus chastised the Jewish leaders who were so proud of their knowledge of the Scriptures, yet had completely missed Jesus in them:

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)

If we approach the Scriptures in a purely intellectual pursuit, we will find much to stimulate our brains. However, we will miss the point of the Scriptures, which is to direct us to the Savior from Genesis to Revelation. From the first promise in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15) to the final promises of His coming in glory in Revelation 22, the entire book is His Story. The Jewish leaders focused on the keeping of the law on picayune points rather than obeying the laws to love the LORD their God with all their hearts, souls, and minds, and to love their neighbors as they loved themselves. (Matthew 22:34-40) They were more concerned with their reputations among men than how God saw them:

“I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?"  (vs. 41-44)

Finally, while they trusted in their ability to keep the Law of Moses, Jesus said that the Law would be the very thing used against them at judgment:

“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (vs. 45-47)

When I decided to study John this year, it was because I had been speaking with a young woman who wasn’t sure anymore what she believed. Jesus says in this passage that what we believe MATTERS! It was the Jewish leaders’ refusal to believe what Moses wrote about the Messiah that condemned them. These leaders had seen the crippled man healed. They had heard John the Baptist proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. And they had studied the Scriptures for their entire lives. It wasn’t that they couldn’t believe; they wouldn’t believe.

If we study the Bible for a lifetime, but never actually believe in the Jesus of the Bible, we will be just like these religious leaders: condemned! Each of us has to come to the point where we answer the one question that will determine our eternal fate: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matt 22:42)


Friday, February 24, 2012


Good morning, dear friends! I’m just asking this morning for your prayers for baby Royce, who is fighting for his life. I was able to email many of you last night, but wanted to reach out to more of you this morning. I received a text from Royce’s grandmother, Pammie, last night with some stunning news: Royce has a very large hematoma between the skull and next layer of tissue above the brain. There is also some water buildup. The neurosurgeon, who has been practicing for 15 years, said he has never seen anything like it. There are also many heart issues, but this brain problem is more urgent right now.

Royce’s mommy, Erin, is in great pain from the C-section, and we can only imagine what she and her husband, Danny, are going through. Please lift this little one up to the LORD throughout the day and weekend. Our God is the great I AM, the sustainer of all life, and He personally knit this little one together with a plan in mind for Royce’s life. We need a miracle - and we have a miracle-working God. May He be glorified in it all and through our prayers of faith.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

John 5:31-38

Good news! Erin and Danny’s baby boy, Royce, came a day early! He arrived yesterday and weighed in at 6lb. 6 oz. They have not yet operated on his heart, so I’ll keep you posted. Let’s rejoice in the goodness of God, who brought this little one safely to his mommy and daddy. Erin had a C-section and is exhausted. I’m sure her emotions are all over the place! Continue to remember this family to our Heavenly Father!

In this next passage of John 5, Jesus finishes His defense of His identity. Not that He needed defense for His own sake, but that these Jewish leaders might understand Who it was that was standing in front of them and that they might be saved. Knowing that His testimony about Himself was not enough for these men, He argues His case on the basis of those witnesses who testify to His deity: John the Baptist; Jesus’ own works which the leaders had seen; and most importantly, the witness of the Father Himself.

There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.

John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. 
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. (John 5:32-38)

Jesus’ validation came from the Father, when He said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) It was the Father’s opinion of what Jesus did that mattered to Him. He was not here to win votes or a popularity contest. Where does our validation come from? Jon Courson poses this question, when he writes, “Is your validation coming from your own accomplishments, or from others patting you on the back? It’ll never be enough. You’ll always be one pat shy of satisfaction... True validation comes when you hear the voice of the Father in your heart, saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ That’s the only validation that brings satisfaction and stability. That’s the only validation that will make your life attractive, fruitful, and effective.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary:New Testament P. 476)

I’ve had enough accolades in my life to know that if all I’m looking for is the praise of men, I will NEVER be fulfilled. Man’s praise is empty, and it only takes one negative comment to completely undo anything good you hear from hundreds of others! Just tonight I received an email from a father of a boy in my math group that merely said he wanted to meet with me tomorrow regarding his son’s math homework. Not a “Dear Mrs. White” greeting; he didn’t even sign it. If I were driven by the approval of men, I’d probably be shaking in my boots. As it is, I’m looking forward to a God-opportunity to share with someone who must be a frustrated dad! I may not win him over, but my goal will be to honor my Father by my responses. I so yearn to hear “Well done” from Him! Don’t you?

This study is another example to me every morning that I am not here to please men.  Some mornings when I get up, I’m so excited to dig into God’s Word and just see what He has for me. On other mornings, like yesterday for example, I dread sitting down at the computer. If I were doing this to get the attention of readers, I would probably be so discouraged. But because I know that this morning time meeting with God in the morning is important to my relationship with Him, and is the one thing that keeps me focused each day, I sit down here at the computer whether or not I feel like it. And I am never disappointed, because He meets me here every morning! May we always seek our validation from Him!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

John 5:19-30

Before I tackle these verses, I want to ask you all to be in prayer for my dear young friend, Erin. Erin was Molly’s best buddy when the girls were little, and she remains a treasure to us. She is going in tomorrow for a C-section to deliver her first baby. You may remember that this little one will undergo heart surgery immediately, because they need to put in a heart valve. Also, they recently found a cyst on the brain.

So, with lots of uncertainty, but with complete trust in God, Who has been forming and loving this one so faithfully, Erin and her husband, Danny, face tomorrow with the need to be surrounded by prayer. Pray for that peace that passes all understanding throughout today and tomorrow, and for God’s hand to be on the surgeon’s. Pray that the baby’s little heart will be made completely whole, that the cyst will have disappeared, and that Erin will be able to hold her baby soon after surgery (she will not be able to hold the baby after delivery, as they will be whisking him/her away to NICU). Pray for a speedy recovery for Erin (those of you who have had C-sections know what I mean), and for complete joy as they see and experience God’s faithfulness!

Now, to the amazing words of Jesus spoken to the Jewish leaders:

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:19-23)

Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus emptied Himself when He came to Earth. He purposefully set aside His majesty to live as a man and “became obedient unto death,” that we might live. So when He says here that He could do nothing by Himself, He is saying that His power while on Earth was through His dependency upon His Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is being so clear here that He is deity! He has the power to raise the dead and give life! Only God has that power. He says that if we don’t honor Jesus as the Son of God and God the Son, we are not honoring the Father.

There is no room here for the view point that Jesus was just a "good teacher" or rabbi. These kind of claims can only come from someone who is either a liar, a lunatic, or the LORD! Anyone standing on a street corner making these claims in our time would be considered a delusional psychotic! Or, that person would be a religious charlatan - a swindler purposefully leading people astray for his own benefit. Neither of these choices would allow such a man to be a “good teacher.” So, if He’s neither a lunatic nor a liar, then He must be telling the truth - and He is indeed the LORD!

You can certainly see why the Jewish leaders were so determined to get rid of Him. He was dangerous to their traditional way of life and was upsetting their power over the people. Just like people today, they did not want to consider the possibility that Jesus was truly the Christ, because it would have huge ramifications for them personally: they would be required to give up their control of their own lives; they would have to give up their comfortable religious traditions and legalism - and their pride in “keeping” the Law - to admit that they were miserable sinners in need of a Savior!

I remember what a struggle that was for me 36 years ago! I was so sure that I was a “good” person, and that God would be “lucky” to have me on His team. Facing the fact that I was actually a foul sinner and was helpless to save myself by my “goodness,” was absolutely repugnant to me. Only the Holy Spirit could have opened my heart and my spiritual eyes to see the reality! In fact, the Bible tells us that it is impossible to claim Jesus is LORD, unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to us. (1 Corinthians 12:3) I’m so grateful that He got through to my stubborn heart!

Have you claimed Him as your LORD yet? You really only have that one option, you know... otherwise you stand with these Jewish leaders in rejecting His claims...


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

John 5:17-18

Hope you all enjoyed your Presidents’ Day weekend! Mine was centered on birthday celebrations for two of my grandchildren: Lucy (age 4 and 4 mos. - she delayed hers), and Beau (age 9). Lucy’s was a “Fancy Nancy” party - very girly, with boas, tutus, purses, and tiaras! Beau had a unique party. He had planned a day at a trampoline place, but he broke his wrist Thursday, so they quickly changed plans, and he and 7 boys and 3 girls went to a cooking school! It was a blast! The boys loved it! They were high-fiving each other as they successfully prepared stuffed pizza, fettucine alfredo (they made the noodles), chicken fingers, and chocolate cake! Some women are going to get some great husbands one day!

Today we begin the study of the rest of chapter 5 of John. If you own a “red-letter” version of the Bible, you will see that this is a long speech by Jesus to the Jewish leaders that were upset about his healing the lame man on the sabbath. Today we’re just going to look at two of the verses:

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:17-18)

I’ve heard people say that Jesus never claimed to be God. Well, tell that to His audience! The Jews knew exactly what he meant with this statement, and it made them more determined to KILL Him! Imagine! These are the religious leaders! But they understood the implications of what He was saying when He claimed God was His Father. We’ll see through John’s gospel their violent reaction to His claims, which eventually lead to His crucifixion.

When Jesus called God His “Father,” he was claiming the DNA of diety. It was His relationship with and to His Father that underscored everything Jesus did during His years of ministry. In responding to the charges about working on the Sabbath, Jesus reminded them that the Father works 24/7. God is at work sustaining the universe throughout the day and night. He takes no Sabbath break, and, so, Jesus, too, worked whenever there was a need.  Jesus merely reflected what He saw His Father doing.

Keeping our relationship with God at the forefront of all we do is the key to our own ministry, as well. If we will just put Him first and let Him shine through us, we will be so much more effective, and every other relationship will fall into place. If Jesus needed to get away continually to pray to His Father, how much more do we need to do that each day?

When Jesus made this statement, it outraged the Jewish leaders! In their minds it was a blasphemous claim. And it would be, too, if it weren’t the truth. In the remaining verses, we’ll see Jesus make claims that would be considered crazy if He weren’t actually the Son of God! He was certainly not interested in political correctness!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

John 5:9b-16

Today we will look at the reactions to the miraculous healing of the man who had been an invalid for 38 years.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. (John 5:9b-16)

Uh-oh! Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath! You know He’s in trouble now! The Jewish leaders, instead of rejoicing that this man was made whole again, were grumbling that it was done on the Sabbath. It’s easy for us to shake our heads at this, but I’m wondering what we do that would be the same. Maybe when we criticize the style of the worship music rather than rejoicing that the musicians are using their gifts to praise God and that hundreds around us are actually worshiping. Or maybe when we don’t like the position someone assumes in prayer, because it doesn’t fit our denomination’s practice. Whenever we take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on some picayune liturgical detail, we become just like the Jewish leaders.

Now, did you notice that the man had no idea who had healed him? Jesus had not intended for this to be a flashy show. He didn’t call in a news crew or capitalize on it by milking the people for money afterwards. He merely disappeared into the crowd. However, Jesus was not yet finished with this man. Jon Courson points out that the man went into the temple to worship, and Jesus found him there! Courson writes the following:

"So, too, you will discover that the Lord meets you in the place of praise. You will often find the Lord has just the word you need to hear or just the touch you need to feel when you come to the house of prayer. Quite frankly, it’s hard for me as a pastor to hear people say, ‘I just don’t sense the Lord. I just don’t feel Him,’ when I know they haven’t been to Bible study for months or at the Lord’s table for weeks. I know the Lord will find them if, like this man, they’ll just go to the temple - to the house of prayer, to the place of praise.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 473)

Finally, we don’t know what area of sin was in this man’s life. But it is important to note that Jesus seemed to tie his illness with sinning when He warned the man to stop sinning or face the possibility of something worse happening to him. Why is it that we are so reluctant to find a correlation to whatever is going wrong in our lives to the fact that we are sinning?? There isn’t always a cause/effect relationship between our woes and our own behaviors, but frequently there is. Too often we play the victim and blame others, when we need to look inward. Is my family having problems? What actions of mine are contributing to them?

First Jesus questioned whether or not this man even wanted to be healed. Then He warned him that, if he wanted to stay healed, he would need to take responsibility for his behavior and just STOP sinning. I love that there are so many places in the Bible that just tell us to STOP doing what we’re doing! We want to analyze WHY we are doing it, and we come up with all kinds of excuses for not being able to overcome, and Jesus just says, “STOP it!!” :) He can make that demand, because He knows He will provide the power if we’ll just ask Him for it! What habit is continuing to control your life and creating problems for you in your marriage or at work? Jesus says, “STOP!’ Will you?


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

John 5:8-9 Part 2

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:8-9)

Here was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. And yet, when Jesus told him to get up and walk, he got up and walked! Amazing! I heard a pastor on the radio the other day say that we were called to WALK by faith, not SIT by faith. Jesus has called us out of our sin to WALK! Yet some of us are still sitting around waiting for direction! :)

We act as if we are paralyzed by the fear of failure. We think, “I’m not sure what God has called me to do. I don’t really have a gift or calling. I’ve been praying about it for years, but I just don’t seem to know what God wants me to do.” This verse makes it clears that He wants us to get moving!

Furthermore, Paul wrote in Ephesians that even though we used to be dead in our sins, God has made us alive for a purpose:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:4-9)

This passage has so much to say about what Jesus has done for us. He saved us by grace through faith in Him. And while it says we are NOT saved by our works, it is clear that we were saved FOR good works. God has already prepared good works for us to do. We just need to walk in them! My pastor spoke on this passage a few weeks ago and he said that every morning he prays that he would walk in the good works that God has prepared for him that day. I love that! I have begun doing that myself.

It’s exciting to know that each day God has a plan for our day if we will just walk in it. He will bring to us those opportunities if we just keep our eyes and ears open. Or even if we just open our mail! There are so many great ministries out there who need our prayers, our time, and, yes, our money. Ask God to put it on you heart where He wants you to walk today! Then, let us know where He takes you. One thing is certain: He does not want you sitting on your butt waiting for guidance! :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

John 5:1-9

Today’s passage is full of application to our lives! Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem for a feast. He must have entered through the Sheep Gate, where sacrifices were brought into Jerusalem, and where the pool of Bethesda was. Bethesda means house of mercy. This pool was considered a place of healing, and around it lay those who were disabled in some way:

Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:3-6)

While there were many there, Jesus focused on one man in particular, a man who had been an invalid for 38 years! What a question Jesus asks him! “Do you want to get well?” Why would He ask this? The reality is that many of us are more comfortable in our current conditions, and would truly rather continue to wallow in them than actually leave them! We may complain about the dysfunction in our family, but the patterns are ones we know intimately, and we are all good at playing our parts. It’s easier to stay in these roles than to seek change. Some will say, “I’ve always had a temper - it’s just who I am,” or “Everyone in my family is an alcoholic - it’s in my genes.” “All wives tell white lies to their husbands - it’s what we do!” “All men play around!” “I was born this way!”

These are not the attitudes of people who want to be made whole! And truly, if it were up to us to change ourselves by our own efforts, through keeping some religious rituals, or through sheer strength of will, we would remain invalids our entire lives. But the One who was asking here in this passage, has the power to change lives from the inside out. Indeed, the invalid at Bethesda offers an excuse:

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (vs. 7)

Jon Courson points out that it appears that there was a competition here. First one in the pool gets healed! He writes “That’s what the law, religion, and man’s regulations always say. 'Be the first, Try harder. Fight your way to the top. God helps those who help themselves.' ” (Courson, P. 472) In this invalid’s mind, if he wanted to be well, he had to get himself down there first, and it was clearly futile! There was no way he could meet the expectation! And the same is true when we attempt to keep the Law or meet religious requirements set by men. No wonder so many sit in frustration and feel completely impotent and hopeless!

But Jesus was able to bring resurrection power to this man’s lifeless legs.

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (vs. 8-9)

Quit trying to change in your own strength. You cannot change your marriage by positive thinking. You will not give up alcohol without divine intervention! You will never be able to take control of your temper until you lay it at Jesus’ feet and ask Him to change you! “Do you want to get well?” Do you?


Monday, February 13, 2012

John 4:43-54

After extending His stay in Samaria, Jesus traveled north back to Galilee. We are told, in verse 45, that the Galileans welcomed Him, because many had seen Him do miracles in Jerusalem when they had been there for Passover. They weren’t looking for a Savior, but they were excited to see miracles.

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” (John 4:46-48)

Contrast the attitude of those in his home territory with those in Samaria! However, Jesus was always moved with compassion and love. He knew before coming to Earth that His own would reject Him, as would most of the world. But love compelled Him.

The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”

Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.

This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee. (vs. 49-54)

If you are at all familiar with the story of the Roman centurion who came to Jesus about his dying son (Matthew 8), you can see the parallels and the differences. The Roman centurion knew that Jesus did not need to come to his son, but only speak the word and his boy would be healed. Jesus commended the faith of the Gentile soldier. However, in this scene, the Jewish official orders Jesus to come to his home. Nevertheless, Jesus healed the man’s son! What patience and forbearance He needs when dealing with us! How many times do we also “order” Jesus to do something for us? Lacking humility, we set our plans without asking for His input, then ask Him to bless them!

The redeeming feature of this royal official was that he took Jesus at his word! Jon Courson tells us that the man apparently trusted completely, because he certainly did not rush home. Courson writes that the distance between Cana and Capernaum is about a four hour walk, so he was not running home. When he returned to indeed find his son healed, he and his whole household believed - just like the story of the Roman centurion. So, even though the man’s attitude wasn’t the best and his faith may have been weak at first, he took Jesus at his word. And Jesus, because He loved the man and his family, performed a miracle for this miracle-seeking man - and this man and his whole household believed!

What more evidence do we need that God’s grace does NOT depend on us? How thankful I am that HE is the One who is faithful and true! His love endures forever!


Friday, February 10, 2012

John 4:39-42

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-42)

What a turnaround for the Samaritan woman! She could have kept to herself that she had found the Savior. After all, He had seen deep into her soul and knew exactly what her life had been like. It would be one thing to share that intimate knowledge with her Savior, but quite another to then go share her story with the villagers who held her in contempt. But because she was filled with joy after having experienced His compassion and love, she was compelled to tell others.

She did not have a prepared three-point sermon; she could not give exegetical evidence for her faith; but she could give her personal testimony. And the crowd was moved by it. They came to see for themselves. While their curiosity was piqued by what they saw and heard from the women, it was their own personal encounters with Jesus, during His two-day visit, that made many of them believers.

Never underestimate the power of your testimony! Even just your invitation to “come and see” may open the door to another. Who in your neighborhood or office might be just waiting for an invitation? If your coworkers have seen something different in you, they might be open to come to church with you or to join you at your Bible study. What changes in your attitudes might persuade your own family members to check out the Savior?

We can imagine that life was never the same for that woman in Samaria. Many who had previously scorned her would then be eternally grateful to her for transparently sharing her story. I find it interesting that we don’t know her name. We were given Nicodemus’ name, and the name o the disciples, of course, and even the names of several women who followed Jesus. But this one remains “the Samaritan woman.” I don’t suppose she cares, though, because she wasn’t one to seek attention. And she knows that Jesus knows her name. That’s all that matters! And in our era, when everyone seeks his or her fifteen minutes of fame, and when social media make it possible to promote oneself in a big way (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), it’s refreshing to read about a woman who, two thousand years ago, just wanted to promote her Savior!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

John 4:27-38

Just as Jesus makes His declaration to the Samaritan woman, the disciples return. I love how John describes their reaction to finding Jesus at the well with this woman:

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” (John 4:27)

Although none of them dared question openly, apparently they were certainly wondering what in the world Jesus was doing with such a woman. Jesus was going to set them straight!

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” (vs.31-33)

We finally see here the response of the woman to her encounter with Jesus: she left her water jar and ran to tell others about Jesus! Now, don’t you wonder if a few eyebrows didn’t raise when she said this man “told me everything I ever did,”? They surely knew her reputation, but with this declaration, she pretty much is admitting it all openly to these people who had scorned her. They were witnessing an immediate change in this woman who used to go out of her way to avoid their eyes.

Meanwhile, back at the well, the disciples were encouraging Jesus to eat what they had brought back, but He apparently had already eaten! The disciples were confused, not understanding that He was sustained and filled to the brim by doing the Father’s will. And then Jesus addresses their prejudice against the Samaritans. As the people of the town were making their way down the road to see Him for themselves, Jesus points out that these people, despised and rejected by the Jews, were ripe for the picking. They were hungry for and ready to hear the gospel:

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”  (vs.34-38)

Jesus was challenging the disciples and us to open our eyes to see the needy people all around us who are so ready to hear the good news of salvation through Christ. Because we tend to view the world with worldly eyes, we are ignoring the “invisible” people right next to us in our neighborhoods, in our offices, in our classrooms. I know, as a teacher, that all teachers love working with the gifted kids. They are usually excited to learn, motivated to do their best, and they energize your classroom. But truly, they are the easiest ones to work with! It’s the quiet ones, the struggling ones who have no support at home and few friends at school, the ones you don’t even realize are absent until mid-morning, who are the ones who truly need a good teacher to take an interest. Jesus is telling me that these are where the harvest is!

First, let me make it clear that I do not evangelize children in a public school setting. I’m not there to actively witness to children. Their spiritual training is their parents’ responsibility (would somebody please explain that to the parents??). My job, as a Christian in a public school, is to LOVE these kids, do my best to teach them the curriculum, while also instilling a love for learning. I am responsible for doing my job in the best way possible. With that said, this message from Jesus this morning reminds me that it’s my low group - the ones who never do their homework or study for tests, the ones who appear destined to fail in the world’s eyes - these are the harvest!

Who are the “Samaritans” of your personal world? Do you see them through the eyes of the disciples or through the eyes of Jesus? I’ve been challenged here, how about you?


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

John 4:19-26 revisited

I want to revisit the last part of the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, because this story is so poignant. Even when the woman confessed that she had been living a life of sin, she was not quite ready to deal with the personal issue. She was only comfortable with a general religious discussion:

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (John 4:19-20)

But Jesus made it clear that it is not WHERE you worship that matters. It’s not the special building, temple, or cathedral that counts. It’s WHOM and HOW you worship that God cares about.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (vs.23-24)

The woman was finally beginning to get it, for she realized that she needed to be looking for the promised Messiah. And Jesus boldly claimed, “I who speak to you am he.” (vs.26)  Imagine her thoughts! The very One that she had been taught to wait for was standing right in front of her, a miserable sinner, a lowly woman! She had come to the well alone in the heat of the day to avoid the scorn of other women, and found the Messiah, the Savior of the world, waiting for her! She had spent her life trying to fill the void in her spirit by seeking her worth from multiple men, yet she had remained empty. In fact, I’m certain that void grew bigger with every futile relationship. While the people of this village probably judged her, Jesus LOVED her. He had come out of His way just to meet her!

I love this story! When we consider the lack of value given to women in general in those times, it is so wonderful to see Jesus treat her with dignity and compassion. He did not harangue her to repent, he just very gently showed her the reality of her life. Then He offered her hope in Himself, the Living Water. While His message is always the same - we need to be born spiritually from the inside out by His Spirit - that message is always personally delivered to each of us in a way that opens our hearts to receive Him.

What a personal God! How He loves us! How did He come to you? I’d love to hear your stories!

Next time, we will see the results of this encounter.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

John 4:9-26

As we look at this dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, let’s note how Jesus is able to keep the discussion focused when she tries to sidetrack it.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:7-10)

While we know that Jesus came to serve, not be served, there were times in His ministry when He allowed others to serve him, and this is one of those times. Instead of gallantly offering to get the water, he asks her to draw it for Him. It is so much easier for us to give sometimes than to be on the receiving end. It requires humbling to allow another to do something for us. However, when we do this, we are often providing an opportunity for blessing that the other person would have missed otherwise. Don’t be afraid to allow others to serve you once in a while. It may open the door to sharing the gospel, as it did in this case with the Samaritan woman.

This woman was surprised when Jesus spoke with her. After all, she was a despised Samaritan - and a woman to boot! Rather than get into an ethnic discussion, however, Jesus provoked curiosity in her by suggesting that He was the source of living water. She took Him literally, thinking He was speaking of physical water. Then she displays her knowledge of Old Testament history specific to the well.

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (vs.11-14)

Jesus was leading her into a spiritual discussion, showing her that her physical needs were not really what He was concerned with. He wanted to make her thirsty for His living water, because nothing the world has to offer will satisfy like Jesus does. Through the indwelling Spirit, He gives us a well that NEVER runs dry! And the Samaritan woman took the bait! But there was one issue that needed to be dealt with first: her sin. In order for her to receive this living water, she first needed to acknowledge her need through confession:

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (vs.15-18)

I wonder how hard that was for her to admit that. I wonder if she said it in a whisper, in shame. I’m thinking that Jesus’ love and the compassion He was showing just broke down those barriers and that confessing was probably a relief! But when He showed her that He knew the WHOLE truth about her ugly past, she was amazed! And maybe still a little uncomfortable, because she once again tried to turn the conversation from a personal issue to a general religious discussion about where to worship, rather than HOW to worship.

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”(vs.19-26)

Okay, when we are finally confronted with the outright claims of Jesus Christ, it is decision time. Jesus had gently drawn her to the main issue. Jesus said that we are required to worship in spirit and in TRUTH.  It matters WHOM and HOW we worship.  Now that she knew who He claimed to be, what was she going to do about it? This is the only question that will matter in eternity: Who is Jesus to you? He is offering living water, because He IS the Living Water! Are you thirsty? Jesus says, “Come.”


Monday, February 6, 2012

John 4:1-8

One of the sweet things you see in reading the gospels is how Jesus treated each person as an individual. His encounters with people were all unique, meeting the specific needs of each person’s heart. While Nicodemus was a well-respected religious scholar and leader, in chapter 4 we meet a woman who is emotionally needy and feeling completely unworthy. Jesus goes out of his way for this encounter!

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (John 4:4-6)

Jesus was headed from Judea, in the southern part of Israel, to Galilee, in the north. Most Jews would avoid Samaria, which is in the middle section of Israel, and go through Perea on the other side of the Jordan, because the Jews hated the Samaritans. This animosity dated back to the Assyrian invasion in 722 B.C. When the Assyrians took most of the Jews captive and back to Assyria, they left behind a few Jews. Then they sent some of their own people to settle in Israel, and these intermarried with the Jews that had been left behind.

So, the resulting Samaritans were considered half-breeds, and were despised by the Jews. While the Samaritans did believe in the books of Moses, they had been barred from the temple in Jerusalem. So they built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim, and they changed the details of some of the Bible stories so that the Garden of Eden was on Mt. Gerizim, Noah’s Ark had landed on Mt. Gerizim, and Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice on Mt. Gerizim! :)

With that background info, you can see that it was unusual for Jesus to purposefully go through Samaria. In fact, did you note that verse 4 tells us that he had to go through Samaria? He was compelled to go there, because He had this divine appointment with the Samaritan woman!

Verse 6 tells us that Jesus was tired from His journey - but never too tired to meet the needs of others. We’re told the time was the sixth hour, in the heat of the day. Most women would come to the well early in the morning or in the cool of the evening, but this woman came at the hottest part of the day, most likely to avoid the scorn of the other “respectable” women.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) (vs. 7-8)

How interesting that Jesus sent the disciples into town for food! He could have easily produced their food miraculously, but Jesus never performed miracles to satisfy His own needs. In fact, that was one of the temptations of the devil in Matthew 4, when Satan tempted Jesus, after 40 days without food, to turn stones into bread. No, Jesus did not come to serve Himself, He came to serve us. So, he sent the disciples away, because He needed to meet this woman alone. The woman was coming to draw water, but the Living Water was about to draw her to Himself. We’ll look at their dialogue tomorrow!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

John 3:22-36

In the final passage of chapter 3 of John, the scene shifts suddenly back to John the Baptist. We never read about Nicodemus’s reaction to the words he had just heard from Jesus, although he had much to think about. Because he provided the burial spices for Jesus, it is assumed that he became a believer at some point. But in verse 22, we return to John the Baptist, who is now baptizing people at Aenon, which is where Jesus is also baptizing.

After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (John 3:22-23)

I would have missed this point, but Jon Courson actually asks why John was now baptizing at Aenon. He suggests it had nothing to do with heavenly revelation or fulfilling prophecy, but that the answer is simpler and very practical: because there was plenty of water. Courson writes that too often we make finding the will of God much more difficult than it needs to be. God often aligns the desires of our hearts with His will when we are trusting Him. He gives an illustration from Chuck Smith’s life. When asked why he chose to start up Calvary Chapel in the middle of a bean field in Costa Mesa in the 70’s, whether or not God had directed Him there, Chuck laughed and replied, “I took the church in Costa Mesa because I like to surf and it was the closest available church to the beach!” :)

Now, when John’s disciples saw Jesus and his disciples baptizing in the same area, they seemed to see it as a competition:

They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less. (vs. 26-30)

From the moment John first was near Jesus, while still in his mother’s womb, he leapt for joy. John saw himself as the best man, bringing the Bride to the Groom. At this point in his ministry, his joy was complete, for he saw the people going to the Groom. His own ministry was drawing to a close. He felt no competition, only joy in completing the task God had given him to do. As Jesus became greater, John was to become less.

I certainly see some practical application to my own life in John’s response. As a teacher, my job is to help educate the next generation. So why would I be jealous when I see another teacher do a fabulous job? If someone else is also working hard to prepare children for the future, wouldn’t I rejoice? If my gift were to sing for God (so NOT my gift), then why would I be jealous because someone else was given the position of choir director. As long as we are all using our gifts for God’s glory, then we need not feel competition toward others. We are ALL to become less, while Jesus becomes greater.

Finally, in the last verse of chapter 3, we see John repeat much of what Jesus had said to Nicodemus:

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (vs. 35-36)

I love what Jon Courson writes about this, so I’ll finish with his thoughts:

“Why does the wrath of God abide on the one who does not Believe in his Son? Because he who does not believe is trampling on the sacrificial blood of His only begotten Son. This world is sinking fast in the quicksand of sin. God does not condemn us for being in that place - only for refusing to reach out to the nail-pierced hand offering to pull us out.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 462)

People aren’t sent to Hell because they are sinners. Christ died for sinners! They go there of their own free will, because they refuse the free gift of salvation that Jesus provides!

Wow!  Chapter 3 was great - but wait until we go to chapter 4 next week!  It just keeps getting better!


Friday, February 3, 2012

John 3:16-21

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

I’m pretty sure that this verse doesn’t need an address attached for you to know where to find it, since it is probably the most well-known verse in the Bible. Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary: New Testament, points out that these few words sum up God’s heart, His plan, and His will. He suggests that this verse is one we should meditate on it for ten days, emphasizing a different word each time:

For God so loved the world...
For God so loved the world...
For God so loved the world...

It is God’s greatest desire that the entire world would believe in His Son and have everlasting life. He does not want anyone to perish. In his second letter, Peter affirmed this:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Yet, I always find it interesting that rarely, when John 3:16 is quoted, do we ever hear the words that Jesus spoke next:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (vs.17-21)

Jesus was sent into the world to SAVE it. Now, some people have a ho-hum attitude when it comes to being “saved,” and behave as if Jesus just came to show us the Father’s love for us. The silliness of this idea can be demonstrated in an illustration I heard years ago. Let’s say I’m sitting at the end of a pier, dangling my feet in water, and you come running down the pier and dive in for a swim. You are having a perfectly lovely swim, in no danger whatsoever, when I jump in the water to “save” you to show you how much I love you, and I drown in the process. That would not be love, that would be DUMB!

Well, Jesus did not die an agonizing death on the cross just to show us how much He loved us! He died on the cross because we were DYING in our SIN! We were “perishing” and needed to be “saved.” In fact, before His death, Jesus prayed that the Father would remove that cup of death if there could be ANY other way to save us. But He submitted to His Father’s will, because he loved us and because we needed saving!

The power in the gospel, much like an electrical charge, is in the partnership of the positive and the negative message. Without the negative, the positive has no power. As my pastor loves to say, “You have to know the bad news [you’re a lost sinner], in order to appreciate the good news [Jesus died for sinners].”

Verse 18 above tells us that anyone who does not believe in Jesus stands condemned [is perishing], because he hasn’t believed in Jesus. What does it mean to be condemned? Well, Revelation 20:15 tells us, If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. This will be along with the devil and the antichrist, and it’s a place where they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Rev 20:10) That’s harsh! But, because God is a holy, holy, holy God of justice, His righteousness and justice require wrath. But the good news is that we have been saved from that when we put our trust in Jesus, alone, to save us. Being saved sounds pretty good, right?

Why doesn’t EVERYONE receive this salvation gift? John 3:19 tells us:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

Wow! Jesus tells us that men prefer to live in their sin! He also told us that His way is narrow and few would find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

I am so grateful that God opened my heart to hear and believe! But because I know He loves the whole WORLD, I need to make sure that as many as possible find that narrow Way!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

John 3:9-15

Before looking at the next verses in John 3, I just wanted to ask you to pray for two little ones. My sweet friend, Erin, who has been having early contractions with her first baby (due date in March), is still holding onto that baby! However, they just learned that, in addition to the heart valve problem which will require surgery after birth, there is now a cyst showing on the brain. Please pray that God, in His mercy, will heal these problems before this little one is born! And pray for Erin and her husband, Danny, as they await the birth, that they will know God’s peace as they trust in His loving kindness and His sovereignty.

Then, Molly’s dear friend, Joyce, and her family need our prayers. Their toddler daughter, Bridget had cataract surgery a few months ago, and now they have found that the capsule that holds the lens in place (which cannot be replaced) is opaque. They are planning to remove it next Tuesday, hoping that there is enough scar tissue from the cataract surgery to hold the lens in once the capsule is removed. This is a very scary time for them. Please pray that God’s hand will be on the surgeon’s hand. Actually, because nothing is impossible for God, let’s pray that God will miraculously heal Bridget’s eye! So many needs... Such a BIG God!

As I was thinking about God’s power to not only create the universe from nothing, but to also knit together a heart valve, make a cyst disappear, and repair a lens capsule, I was reminded of the amazing miracle God does to regenerate our souls! And that’s what Jesus tries to get across to Nicodemus in today’s lesson.

Nicodemus had started with the acknowledgement that the miracles that he had witnessed Jesus performing were surely from God, but Jesus led him into a personal discussion about Nicodemus’s need for his own miracle: the need to be born again by the Spirit of God.

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:9-15)

Here Nicodemus was - this well-respected Jewish leader, a leader among leaders, and a scholarly teacher of religion - and yet he did not understand what Jesus was speaking of when He said Nicodemus needed to be completely regenerated. What Nicodemus needed was a heart transplant! He had seen the miracles of Jesus and had heard His teaching but could not grasp why Jesus had come: Jesus must be lifted up on a cross to die for our sins, so eternal life might be given to everyone who believes in him.

No matter how smart we think we are, no matter how many letters follow our names to show the extent of our education, there is nothing more important to understand than our need for a Savior. This is a message not just for the PhD, but for the woman out in the fields in Africa, for those in the ghettos of India, as well as for the 1% on Wall Street! We are sinners in need of a Savior. Nicodemus needed a Savior and so do we! Tomorrow we’ll look at one of the best-known verses in Scripture, as well as the one that follows it that is not so well-known, that speak to this need. In the meantime, please keep praying!