Friday, March 30, 2012

John 9:4-12

Before getting into our study this morning, I want to give you the latest updates I received on Royce and Tosh yesterday. The first comes from Grandma Pammie:

Royce is responding quite well to his surgery.
Doctors took him off the ventilator late yesterday afternoon.
This is a HUGE prayer PRAISE!!!
God continues to show his grace upon this adorable child of his.  We are all so grateful with the daily mercies of the Lord.
We can't begin to thank each and every prayer warrior for Royce's needs, but will ask that each individual be abundantly blessed with his own needs.

Then we received this news about Tosh: he was taken off the oxygen on Sunday and currently breathing on his own. The developmental nurses are pleased with the progress he is making, but it is a slow process and small steps at a time.   If he continues to improve, they may allow him to go home next week. 

Oh, Father, how we thank you for your mercy and grace poured out on these babies and their families. May they grow up to glorify You in all they do!

Now, back to this man born blind... Even as we saw yesterday, the causes of illness are not always the same, neither are the healings. Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary: New Testament, reminds us that Jesus healed many blind people, and the healings were always done differently. In Mark 10:46-52, Jesus just speaks to a blind man to heal him. In Matthew 20:30-34, Jesus touches the man’s eyes. Then, in Mark 8:22-25, He touches a man’s eyes twice.

Even as these healings were all unique, Jesus works in our lives in different ways. He refuses to be formulaic. Everything He does in our lives is created for us personally and is unique to our needs. Here, in John 9, the method is totally different. After declaring that He is the light of the world (verse 5), Jesus spits into the dirt and makes a mud pack that He puts on the man’s eyes!

Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (John 9:6-7)

This healing caused quite a stir in the neighborhood!

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

“How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.

He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

“Where is this man?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said. (vs.8-12)

Now, I find it perplexing here that the man seems so casual about the fact that he has no idea where this Jesus fellow is. And he doesn’t appear to be excessively curious about it. There is no indication that he ran around looking for Jesus. Maybe he was just so stunned by sight that he was having a hard time processing it... Can you imagine never having seen ANYTHING before, and then suddenly you can see the blue of the sky, the brilliant colors of flowers, and the many faces of your neighbors?? Wow! We learn later, in verse 35, that Jesus actually went looking for the man! Isn’t that just the way with our LORD? He’s the One who finds us!

Next week we’ll see that restoring his physical sight isn’t the main miracle Jesus performs here. And once again, we’ll find the religious leaders outraged!
Have a restful weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

John 9:1-3

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

The Apostle John was very selective about what he included in his gospel. He acknowledged that he could have included much more, but he selected specific miracles to highlight, because his aim was that we would BELIEVE and have life in Jesus’ name.

So I find it interesting that this particular incident in chapter 9, the healing of the man born blind, so closely parallels the healing of the man who had been an invalid for 38 years in chapter 5. Both of these healing occurred on the Sabbath. Now, Jesus surely healed on every day of the week, but John seems to choose the ones done on the Sabbath, because he wants to contrast the belief of the people against the unbelief of the religious leaders. We'll look at that later, but this particular healing tells us so much more!

When the disciples saw this man, they asked Jesus a question that stemmed from a false notion:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9:1-3)

The disciples were under the impression that something so awful as being born blind must have been caused by someone’s sin. The flip side of this faulty thinking is that people are blessed because they are righteous. Some teach that people who do good will prosper because God will bless them for their goodness. But the Bible makes it clear that there is no one righteous - we are all sinners in need of a savior (Romans 3:22-24).

When Jesus healed the invalid in chapter 5, He told the man, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14) So, in that case, Jesus seems to make a link to illness and sin. However, here in chapter 9 he assures the disciples that no one’s sin caused the blindness. It was specifically allowed in this man’s life to display the glory of God at that particular time!

In Psalm 73, David stumbled over the fact that he saw the wicked prosper while those who served God struggled. But then he went into the sanctuary of God and understood the end result: the wicked die in their sin and are eternally separated from God. Those who love God sometimes face a lifetime of trials. Jesus said that the Father “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt 5:45)

When disaster strikes, we want to find the cause. Why did Megan die in childbirth? Why would God allow Tosh and Cadyn to be without a mother? Why was Royce born with a heart defect? Why is Valen suffering with OMS? Why would God allow Bridget to struggle with her vision? What possible good can come from these sufferings? But, regardless of whether we are talking about the invalid who sinned, or the man born blind, or these dear ones we have been praying for, Jesus would say the same thing to them and to us: “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

How is that possible? We don’t know the end results yet. We can’t see what’s going on, but God has seen it all from beginning to end. Our job is to trust and praise Him through it all. And that alone gives Him glory. Sometimes the end result will be a miraculous healing, which is what we are praying for for the little ones on our prayer list. Sometimes God does not remove the problem, as with Paul and his thorn in the flesh.

I’m glad that God is not driven by a formula. I’m glad we don’t always know why things happen. This causes us to lean on Him. It’s normal for us to ask “Why?” God is not afraid of our questions. He just wants us to bring them to Him.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

John 8:48-59

In today’s passage we will see the anger of the religious leaders reach a new high. Jesus had just told them that their father was NOT Abraham, but the devil! They were apoplectic! They begin the name-calling:

The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are? (John 8:48-53)

Now this last question was surely rhetorical, but it is the key to the entire Bible: Who IS Jesus? Each of us must answer this question, because our salvation depends upon it. Jesus had been trying to reveal His identity to them, but they would not hear it. And it’s His answer to this question, and their response that is the focus of this passage:

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (vs. 58-59)

Why did Jesus’ answer evokes such a violent response? He was clearly referring to the passage in Exodus 3 in which God, appearing in the burning bush, tells Moses His name. Moses was being called by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but the reluctant leader was trying to find a way out of this job:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)

This name that God gave Himself encapsulates His eternal, self-existent nature. So, the Jewish leaders confronting Jesus clearly understood that when He said, “Before Abraham was born, I am,” He was making a claim to deity. The evidence that they understood His meaning was that they picked up stones to stone him! They believed He deserved the death sentence for such blasphemy!

According to Jewish law, stoning was only legal for five types of offenders: mediums or spiritists who communicated with familiar spirits (Lev. 20:27); those who committed blasphemy (Lev. 24:10-23); false prophets who lead the people into idolatry (Deut 13:5-10); stubborn, rebellious sons (Deut 21:18-21); and adulterers and rapists (Deut 22:21-24 & Lev 20:10). It was clear that the Jewish leaders believed Jesus was blaspheming in equating Himself with God. They had to conclude He was either demon-possessed, or boldly lying. Otherwise, they would have to conclude He was actually telling the truth!

John is giving us the background here to what lead up to Jesus’ crucifixion. His outrageous claims (in the minds of the Jewish leaders) threatened their authority and their control of the people. The tension continued to build.

If Jesus truly is Who He says He is, then it will radically alter our lives. It demands a response from us. Will we believe or take up stones?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

John 8:37-47

I’ll be reminding you throughout this study that the point of John is that it is crucial what we believe. It’s the theme of his gospel. This particular passage of John is a long one! The Jews are making the “religious” argument about their identity as Jews. They claim to be the children of Abraham, as surely they were his physical descendants. In fact, in verse 39 they declare with pride, “Abraham is our father.” This is the argument of all who claim they are right with God because they belong to their church affiliation. “I know I’m okay with God, because I’ve gone to the First Church on the Corner for 35 years!” “I am saved because I was baptized at the Holy Church of the Confessor.” “Surely God looks down on me favorably because I’m a deacon at the Righteous Church of Jesus Christ.” “My grandfather was the founding pastor at Community Church of the Truth.”

God has no grandchildren! We become His children when we receive Christ as our Savior (John 1:12). Jesus enters into a debate with these leaders to point out the futility of their reasoning:

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.” (John 8:39b-41)

Check out Hebrews 11 to see how Abraham was declared righteous before God. It was because of his faith, not because of his rich religious heritage. The Jewish leaders weren’t hearing Jesus:

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (vs. 41b-47)

Jesus equates the truth He is giving them with the words of His Father, and He argues that THEIR father is the father of lies, Satan. How can that be that religious men, zealously keeping all of these religious rules and practicing their rituals with precision could be children of the devil?? The Bible calls Satan an “angel of light.” He doesn’t come at us as the cartoon character with the red devil suit and the horns. He prefers subtlety - he engages us with an appearance that appears to be so good and so righteous. Note his classic temptations with Eve in the Garden in Genesis 3 or with Jesus in the desert in Matthew 4. But Paul warned us in Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal 1:6)

Basically, Jesus is arguing that if we are not wholly committed to Him, we are on the side of the devil! There isn’t a middle ground. Have you fully committed yourself to Christ or to a church? Are you relying on your religious heritage or on your relationship to the Father through His Son? Tomorrow we’ll look at the passage in which Jesus makes His most outrageous claim - the one that really sets the leaders plotting!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Updates on prayer requests

What a week it has been! I want to first give you an update on Royce, who had his heart surgery yesterday. I received this text message from his grandmother, Pammie:

Surgery went smoothly. Doctor is cautiously optimistic. Will monitor for the next 24 hours. Will know more then. Praise be to the Lord our God! Thank you for your continued prayers and love.

Such great news! Continue to pray that this little guy will be strengthened, not only in his physical heart, but in his spiritual heart!

The services for Megan Gerhard Weisberg were on Saturday. I don’t remember a more beautiful or gut-wrenching memorial service! It broke our hearts to see her parents, Dave and Karen, and her dear sister, Eryn, and her adorable son Cadyn, and her devoted husband, Jody, standing together without her by their sides! What an amazing family! The outpouring of support from the community was certainly an encouragement and comfort for them. But now the truly hard part of mourning begins, as people go home, and they are left to deal with the reality... Please continue to lift them up - and continue to pray for baby Tosh as he is still in intensive care up at CHOC.

Yesterday Don and I, Molly, Emmy, Kevin, and the grandkids all drove out to Palm Desert to take care of business there to organize things at Don’s mother’s home. We got so much done, but there is still so much to take care of!

So, it was not a restful weekend, but we have certainly felt God’s faithfulness in getting us through it! Tomorrow we’ll pick up in John 8!

Friday, March 23, 2012

John 8:31-36

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

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36)

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” This is one of the most frequently quoted and misquoted verses. People love to use it in relation to worldly knowledge. They twist the meaning to be that the more you learn, the better your education, the freer you will be from constraints.

Jesus’ audience also misunderstood, because they were thinking of political freedom. They did not consider themselves in need of freedom, because they were not in bondage to others. But Jesus makes it clear that the real bondage is bondage to sin. Sin makes slaves of every one of us.

It is amazing how quickly something can become habit-forming - to the point that it completely takes over our thoughts and time. And no one thinks they will become addicted to the sin! Whether it is smoking, or drinking, or using Facebook, engaging in an adulterous affair, or eating issues (whether overeating, anorexia, or bulemia), we all believe the lie, at first, that WE are in control.

But pretty soon you can’t wait for the next cigarette, or your thinking all day about going home and relaxing with that drink, or you are completely distracted at work, because you cannot get that person out of your mind. You spend every waking minute anxious to get another “fix.” That’s the way with sin! It looks good at first - and it feels good! Then it quietly begins to demand more attention from you, squeezing out the things that really matter. You think, “I’ll quit next week,” or “This will be the last time we sneak in a meeting with each other,” or “I can stop drinking any time I want.”

The irony of social networking is that it actually leads us AWAY from meaningful communication. How often have you seen people standing around in a group, all of them checking their cell phones for messages or texting like crazy, while being completely unaware of the others standing right next to them? Talk about addictive behavior!

The reality is, sin kills. It kills our will to do the right thing; it kills our relationships with family and co-workers; it kills our relationship with God. And it enslaves us!

Jesus is telling us here that if we will grab a hold of the truth about Who He is and what He has done, we will finally be free of the grip sin has on our lives. We will be free indeed! When we receive Christ in faith, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, giving us the power to break sin’s grip on our lives. This is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead - it can free us from our addictions! But you first must admit the truth about your sin - that’s part of “knowing” the truth. Then you can turn it all over to Christ, Who already died for that sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:8-9)
If we think we are not sinners, we are calling Jesus a liar. But if we own up to our sin, and confess it AS SIN, we are promised that, because GOD is faithful and always just (we aren’t), He WILL forgive us. Not only that, He will wipe out the sin and make us completely clean again! Wow!

What is it that has you in its grip? Confess it! He will set you free!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

John 8:12-30

How thankful I am to be back in God’s Word this morning! In this long passage from John 8, Jesus has just dealt with the Pharisees seeking to trip Him up with the woman caught in adultery. These men, who were supposed to be leading their people to God, were in darkness themselves - the blind leading the blind. So in the next passage, Jesus turns from the Pharisees and speaks directly to the people again:

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Oh my goodness! There is darkness all around us - people unable to see where they are headed, wandering around completely lost. Jesus claims here to be the Light that will dispel all darkness; He is the Light that gives life. This statement confounds the Pharisees, who argued that Jesus’ testimony about Himself could not be valid, because the Law required the testimony of two witnesses (Deut 19:15). Throughout this long cross-examination by the Pharisees, Jesus calmly made claims that would be outrageous if not true:

Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going... I stand with the Father, who sent me. (vs.14,16)

In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me... You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (vs.17-18)

Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” (vs. 21)

“I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (vs. 24)

What remarkable statements! What did Jesus mean when He said, “you will indeed die in your sins?” If people have not received the gift of salvation from sin by receiving Christ as their Savior, they have no remedy before God for their sins. They are not cleansed of sin and forgiven except through the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God. And should they die in this state, they would be dying in their sin. The Bible tells us “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment...” (Hebrews 9:27 KJV) That’s the bad news! You have only one go around at this. Today is the day of salvation. What a scary thought that people die without Christ! It is that thought that should compel us to share our faith. We can’t know what state others die in for sure, but we can make sure of our own state before God! And the GOOD news is that when we DO believe in Christ, we immediately receive eternal life.

The Pharisees found Jesus’ claims incomprehensible.

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.  (vs.28-30)

So when Jesus was finally lifted up on the cross, when the earth shook, when the veil of the temple was torn in half from top to bottom (Matt 27:51), some would finally understand that Jesus is the I AM, the Son of God and God the Son. Some would come out of the darkness into the Light.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On overload, but thankful God never is!

Some of you have received the email I quickly sent out by phone late Sunday night as Don and I raced out to Palm Desert to be with his mother, Evelyn, who was in ICU at Eisenhower Medical Center in kidney failure. We got the news Sunday evening that she had coded, they had brought her back with CPR, but she was unresponsive, on a ventilator, and the doctor did not think she would last more than a few hours. So we packed up and headed out at 11:00 p.m. Don’s brother, Dave, and his wife, Nancy (who is the angel in our family) met us there from San Diego. We arrived there at about 12:30, which was a miracle in itself, as it is a 2 1/2 hr. drive and Don usually drives like an old lady.

We were at her bedside until 4:00 a.m., then decided to grab a couple of hours of sleep. So we all checked into a hotel and literally got two hours of sleep, showered, ate a quick breakfast, and went back to her bedside. They removed the ventilator and we stayed by her bed until she died at 11:00 a.m. It was a very sad moment, but we are grateful that she did not suffer and that it went quickly. What made it a particularly sad moment is that there were so many unresolved issues with my mother-in-law... Not a good ending... I’m sure many of you can relate.

We spent all day Monday and yesterday taking care of business, finding papers, bills, etc. and making arrangements. Our two girls, Molly and Emmy, came to the desert to be with their dad and help, which was amazing. Much was accomplished and we headed back home late yesterday afternoon to tell Don’s dad about her passing. You may remember that Frank, Don’s father, is living near us in an assisted living home. He has not seen his wife for any length of time for nearly two years (another long story). He was devastated, but we spent a long time with him and Dave and Nancy reminiscing about happier times.

So, I’m on my way to school this morning, very tired, but glad to be back to some semblance of normalcy. Still much to do and lots of emotions to work through. God was so faithful to allow us to accomplish much, but especially to be with Evelyn at the end. Your prayers for Frank, Don, Dave, and the rest of the family as we make arrangements for burial and a service would be so appreciated!

Wanted to also let you know that Royce will be having his heart surgery sometime this week. I’ll keep you informed. That is just a miracle, as they expected to have to wait for six weeks! Pray for his surgeons and for strength and peace for this family. May God fully restore this little guy’s heart!

Bridget is doing well after her eye surgery. Keep praying that there will be no infection during this healing period.

Finally, the funeral services for Megan Gerhard will be this Saturday. Her baby boy, Tosh, is still in intensive care at Children’s Hospital of Orange, which is a half hour from home. Pray that he will be released to the local Children’s Hospital this week. This family is in such shock! Please keep lifting them up!

So grateful we have a God Who can bear all of our burdens!  We will be back to John tomorrow... Love you all!


Friday, March 16, 2012

More prayer needs ... so thankful for our BIG God!

I already sent out the following prayer request to some of you yesterday via email, but I wanted it to go to those of you on the blog to solicit your prayers for this dear family:

We received such shocking news at our school today, that I just need to ask for your prayers for this family.  Dave Gerhard was the founding principal at my school, and he is the one who hired me.  His daughter, Eryn, works at our school as a special ed teacher.  Today Dave's other daughter, Megan, was delivering her second son when she died of a pulmonary embolism!   Megan was only 32, and she has an older son who is about 10.  The whole family was up at Mission Hospital (where Don worked for 38 years) waiting for the birth, when they received this news.  It is just so tragic and devastating.  Karen Gerhard, Megan's mother & Dave's wife, who is also a principal in our district, has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  It is more than we can comprehend.  Don happened to be up at the hospital this afternoon visiting and he told me that the whole lab was talking about it.  They are all in shock, too.  The baby boy is in intensive care.  

As stunned as all of us who love them are, we know that God was not taken by surprise.  And because God loves Megan and this family so much more than we could imagine, we know that He will lift them up.  Please be part of that by praying for them all!  

It is the one-year anniversary of the death of my nephew, Justin, who died at age 35 of sudden cardiac arrest. You may remember that he left a beautiful wife, Stephanie, twin five-year old boys, a three-year old boy, and Stephanie was pregnant at the time with their fourth - their girl, Johnna, who was born this past August. The day before Justin died, my sister Jodi, his mother, learned that she had multiple myeloma, a bone cancer. It was more than we could wrap our brains around!

And the sudden death of Megan on the day that should have brought great joy to her family, reminded me of what an enemy death is. It devastates those left behind! It intrudes into our plans and rips out our hearts. As I heard a pastor once say at a funeral, “Death sucks!” As Christians, we know that death ushers us into the presence of the LORD, so for those who have gone through that portal there is great joy - and we would never convince them to return to this place of pain and sorrow. But for us on the other side their is such grief!

Jesus came to destroy that final enemy! His death on the cross guaranteed our eternal life. And that eternal life starts NOW - we don’t have to wait for it. Satan comes seeking to kill and destroy - but Jesus came to give us ABUNDANT life. In Him we find our joy and our hope. May He continue to surround my sister’s family and Stephanie and her sweet babes, and may He cover the Gerhard family with His grace and love in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

Thank you to all of you who lift all of these needs up to our Father.  And praise to our LORD who has miraculously healed my sister, Jodi, who is completely cancer free!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

John 8:1-11

Isn’t it amazing how we love to point out the sins of others? We almost take delight in their failings. Witness the obsession the public has with figures like Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen. We all love a train wreck when we’re not in it! This begins at a very early age! Having taught first grade years ago, I can tell you there is nothing children love more than to tattle on another! Why are we like this? I believe it’s because we want to take attention away from our own faults. If we can keep people distracted by the sins of others, maybe they won’t see ours! In today’s passage we witness men eager to pounce on a woman caught in adultery.

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. (John 8:1-6a)

After preaching to the crowd at the temple the day before, Jesus sought some quiet time on the Mount of Olives. But he returned the next day to teach once again. The religious leaders show up dragging a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery with them, hoping to trap Jesus. They bring up the Law of Moses which required that BOTH the man and the woman caught in adultery must be put to death (Lev. 20:10). So where was the man? If she was caught in the act, he had to have been there, too!
They wanted Jesus to decide her fate, knowing that if He agreed she must be killed, all those He came to save, those He hung out with, the prostitutes, tax collectors, etc., would probably be afraid to be around Him. If He brushed it off, He would be denying the Law. Only Jesus could have been wise enough to silence them without a word:

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When 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.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At 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. (vs. 6b-9)

I love that John doesn’t tell us what it was that Jesus was writing on the ground. If, as most speculate, He was writing down in the dirt the many sins that those accusing the woman had committed, it reminds me that while He wants us to confess our sins and be cleansed, He doesn’t desire to make a public spectacle of us and have us wear scarlet letters on our chests announcing our sins. Whatever He wrote, it was enough to stop the hypocritical outrage of these religious leaders and send them home to contemplate their motives. And after they had left, one by one, the woman remained with Jesus.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (vs. 10-11)

I love the quietness that is in this ending. You can imagine the noisy scene as they initially brought her out of that bed (most likely screaming), dragged her through the streets to the temple, and shouted accusations as they brought her before Jesus. Jesus brought calm and peace to the situation. He did not resort to yelling at them because of their obvious hypocrisy. He calmed everyone down by His own demeanor and was able to allow the woman some dignity. In fact, Jon Courson points out that when He called her woman in verse 10, it was the same term He used later for His mother when she was at the foot of the cross. Rather than condemning her, He exhorts her, “Go and sin no more.” (KJV)

Doesn’t this just make you adore our Savior even more? There is such a sweetness here! Jesus’ point here is just like the point He made in Matthew 7:3-5, where He reminds us that, before we try to point out the tiny speck in someone else’s eye, we need to first remove the log from our own! Our response to someone else’s fall should be one of compassion, one that compels us to pray for the redemption of that person. We have all been there - on a daily basis! How grateful I am for a Savior who died to silence the accusers in my life!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

John 7:37-53

Our passage today shows us Jesus still at the Feast of Tabernacles:

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:37-39)

This is an interesting picture of Jesus, because is tells us that He basically shouted out to the people there. We usually think of Jesus humbly going about in a quiet way, but He knew the desperate need and longing of these people and He wanted to get their attention. Jesus came to seek and save the lost - those who were weak, weary, hungry and thirsty. He wanted people to know that what they were seeking to fill that need was met fully in Him. And it’s not just that He offered a cool drink - He promised overflowing refreshment that would come from within the deepest part of our souls. The indwelling Holy Spirit would be a constant source of satisfaction to us - filling us so full that our joy would spill over to others.

I read somewhere that older people have a greater danger of dehydration, because they don’t recognize thirst. I think that is the spiritual condition of most of us. We have tuned out the desire for spiritual things because we are so distracted by the world - and we have no awareness of our need. Surely there are times in our lives when Jesus has to shout to get our attention! “Come to me and drink!”

Once again, the response of the crowd was mixed:

On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

Others said, “He is the Christ.”

Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. (vs.40-44)

Now this reminded me of the whole “birther” thing. If Jesus could have just produced a birth certificate from Bethlehem, He could have settled this whole identity thing right there! :) But for most, there is never enough evidence. It’s not that they CAN’T believe - it’s that they WON’T! And that leads us to the next scene when the temple guards, who had been sent to arrest Jesus, return to report:

Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared.

“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” (vs.45-49)

Talk about spiritual pride! Hey, if the Pharisees don’t put their stamp of approval on Jesus, forget about it! It would be funny if it weren’t so serious. These leaders were the religious authority over God’s chosen people - and they were contemptuous of Jesus - calling him a “deceiver!” They even turned on one of their own who sees the need to investigate Jesus’ claims:

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”

They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” (vs. 51-52)

Those who are in leadership positions are held more accountable for what they model. These leaders were making it more difficult for their “sheep” to know the truth! This reminds me of the serious position we hold as parents and grandparents to spiritually lead our children and grandchildren. If we aren’t modeling for them a strong commitment to the Savior, we will be held accountable.

Years ago, when I was the head of Sunday School for the church my girls grew up in, it amazed me how parents looked to the Sunday School teachers to be the ones to teach their children everything about God and the Bible. It was as if they just wanted to drop their kids off and assume that all of their spiritual instruction would take place for an hour a week. Just taking your kids to church and signing them up for mid-week programs is not the spiritual instruction God requires of us. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 is very clear that spiritual instruction is a 24/7 job:

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

We need to be making our life with God visible to our kids every day. They need to hear our stories of His faithfulness; they need to be taught His Word from an early age. I’m feeling convicted about that as a grandparent!

Off to teach!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

John 7:14-36

I’m making a confession here! When I read this passage yesterday morning, I could not get excited about it. I dug in, however, but got to the point where I knew I couldn’t go forward. It was time to rely on the Holy Spirit big time! John tells us at the end of his gospel that there were MANY other things which Jesus did that John did not include. In fact he wrote, “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) And in John 20:31 he wrote, “These were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Therefore, whatever John included in his gospel, he did with this purpose in mind. So, as I reflected on that yesterday afternoon (having given up in the morning), I decided that John included this passage in chapter 7 to show us the build up of the opposition of the religious leaders to Jesus. Because there are people who deny that Jesus claimed to be God, it is really important that we see exactly what it was that lead to his death. They did not crucify people who just claimed to be teachers. Nor did they crucify someone for working on the Sabbath. So what was is that got the religious leaders’ panties in a twist to the point that they HATED Jesus and plotted to KILL him. John will show us how this animosity increased. With that in mind, let’s now look at today’s verses.

Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” (John 7:14-15)

According to Jon Courson, at the time Jesus lived there were more than 30 seminaries in Jerusalem, and Jesus had not attended any of them. The crowds marveled that He was such a great teacher without any formal training. Jesus didn’t need training in the Word, because He IS the Word! In the verses that follow this passage Jesus affirmed that His teaching came from God, and that if anyone were willing to do God’s will, they would understand that (we saw in John 6:28-29 that the will of God is that we believe in His Son). Instead, they were seeking to kill him ostensibly because he had healed the lame man on the Sabbath.  However, the real hatred arose from His claim that God was His Father (John 5:18).

Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now 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? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” (verses 21-24)

Basically Jesus pointed their hypocrisy, saying, in essence, “You are fine with causing pain to a newborn on the Sabbath, but you are upset that I healed a man and made him whole on the Sabbath!” In the rest of this passage the people debated among themselves about whether or not Jesus could be the Christ.

At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from”... many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?” (vs. 25-27,31)

There was great confusion among the people in Jerusalem. Some were looking to their religious leaders to make a judgment about Jesus, others were convinced by His miracles. This upset the Pharisees. They did not want their power usurped. So they sent the temple guards to arrest Jesus (vs.32). Again, Jesus stirs controversy wherever He shows up! It’s clear from this passage that feelings about Jesus were strong. The people understood that knowing His true identity mattered - whether or not He was the Christ had major implications. The Pharisees understood that, as well, but it’s revealing that they were not interested in getting at the truth if it led to a lessening of their own authority.

We, too, all have to come to a decision about Jesus’ identity. And we instinctively know that the ramifications of our decision will be huge. Making that leap of faith is a scary thing! We know that if we decide that He is, indeed, the Christ, the Son of God, our lives will be forever changed. For some, unfortunately, that is asking too much...


Friday, March 9, 2012

John 7:1-13

In John 7 we get a quick peek at Jesus’ family. After the crowds walked away, Jesus continued to stay in the region of his home. Then the Feast of the Tabernacles came. This was a time when the Jews commemorated God’s faithfulness to His people during their years spent wandering in the wilderness. The people would camp out in tents. Jon Courson calls it the “Jewish equivalent to Family Camp.” :)

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:1-5)

It seems here that Jesus’ brothers were almost challenging Him here, for we’re told that they did NOT believe in Him at this point. It was not until after the crucifixion and resurrection that they were actually numbered among the disciples. Jesus’ brother, Jude, would write the book that bears his name, while James was one of the church leaders in Jerusalem and wrote the Book of James. At this point in Jesus’ ministry, however, they did not believe.

Courson speculates about what it must have been like to have Jesus for an older brother. He was the most loving brother ever! Yet, they did not believe! He reminds us that while, we may be the kindest neighbor or friend or parent, there will be many who will reject our message about Christ.

Jesus tells his brothers that they can go on up to the Feast if they want to, but it’s not yet His time. The opposition of the Jewish leaders was strong because of His healing of the lame man on the Sabbath (chapter 5). Nevertheless, He did follow His brothers. While it would have been safer to wait in Galilee, Jesus was here to obey His Father, so He followed them to Judea:

Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where is that man?”

Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”

Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. (vs. 12-13)

It’s interesting that the crowds had the same response to Jesus as we hear today. “He’s a good teacher. He does nice things - after all He gave us the Golden Rule.” Most of the world today would at least grudgingly acknowledge that. Others, even though they might not say it so bluntly, would have to conclude that He was deceiving or tricking the people. And, surely, if what He was saying about Himself was not true, if He was NOT the Son of God, if people could not attain eternal life through Him, then He would not be a good teacher, but a liar in open rebellion against God. He would be a blasphemer!

Jesus draws these kinds of strong responses. He doesn’t leave you with any other option but to either fully accept Him as LORD, or to completely reject Him. And if you reject Him, you really can’t claim Him to be a “good teacher.” “Good teachers” don’t purposely lead people astray. And if He were just delusional and honestly believed He was the Son of God, but wasn’t, then He would have been crazy, even psychotic! What’s it going to be: liar? lunatic? or LORD?


Thursday, March 8, 2012

John 6:67-71

I received praises to God from Pammie last night. After three hours of surgery, the doctors were very pleased and Royce came through well. He was pooped (and I’m sure his parents were exhausted). The big heart surgery has been scheduled for six weeks from now. Thank you, LORD, for your faithfulness! On to the end of chapter 6...

When Jesus’ teaching became too hard for the Jews and many of his disciples, they bailed on Him. So Jesus looked to the handful remaining, the twelve He had chosen, and asks them, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67) And this was one of those moments when Peter came through:

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (vs. 68-69)

Jon Courson points out that, although they had seen the miraculous works of Jesus, it was His words that convinced them. Jesus had said that His words were spirit and life. Commitment to Christ comes from hearing His Word (Romans 10:17). Being with Jesus and hearing His teaching had completely convinced Peter that no one else had the words of eternal life. Peter had tasted of the LORD and had seen:

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

Courson also notes the order of Peter’s declaration: first they believed and then they knew. This is one of the interesting things about faith. Believing is seeing! You need to take that step of faith before you will KNOW. And, indeed, that’s what the verse from Psalm 34 says. Taste first, and then you will see.

The majority of Jesus’ listeners that day were offended (vs.61). His words created sharp disagreement and the crowd left. It’s interesting that if your were at a party and brought up the name of any other religious leader (Buddha, Mohammed, etc.) you would probably provoke much interest. However, bring up the name of Jesus and many will be offended. His name is offensive to the majority. But to the minority, His words are eternal life.

After Peter’s bold affirmation of faith, Jesus responded, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (vs. 70). In hindsight, John was able to note that Jesus was speaking about Judas (vs. 71), but I wonder, since John doesn’t tell us, what that remark stirred in their brains. Did it alarm them? Did they look around suspiciously at each other? I’m sure Peter, at least, thought, “Not me!!!” :)

This chapter was full of amazing lessons! Jesus made such outrageous claims! We will see many more. Surely, this carpenter from Nazareth creates controversy. But If you have tasted of the Bread of Life, you know there is nowhere else to go! He alone has the words of eternal life!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

John 6:41-66

...and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (I Cor 12:3)

When I first read this verse more than 30 years ago, I had a big “Aha!” moment. Some of you may think I should call it a “Duh!” moment! No one can possibly understand that Jesus is Lord by pure intellectual pursuit. It is not something that you can discern for yourself. It is something that the Holy Spirit must reveal to you. And it certainly explains the dullness of this group of people who were confused when Jesus claimed to be the Bread of Life. They were taken aback by this claim, because they knew he was just a carpenter, the son of Joseph and Mary. So they began to grumble among themselves:

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” (John 6:41-42)

You know, God does NOT like grumbling! It’s what the Israelites did throughout the book of Exodus. One of the things they grumbled about was God’s provision of daily manna from heaven. They got tired of eating the same thing every day. So this grumbling here in chapter 6 is over the fact that Jesus is saying HE is the Bread from heaven. And they don’t think He looks too good either! Hey - he’s just one of us! How can he be from heaven? Jesus responds the same way Moses did:

“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (vs. 43-51)

This was an outrageous claim, and it cause the Jews to “argue sharply among themselves.” (vs. 52) Not only was it hard for the Jews to receive, even his own disciples could not receive it, and they, too began grumbling:

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (vs.61-66)

See how the grumbling was tied to disbelief? If we are grumbling at God about our circumstances or something we read in His Word, aren’t we saying, “I can’t believe you would allow this?” or “You can’t possibly mean this?” And some people, especially ones new in their faith, will turn away in discouragement when God doesn’t answer their prayers in the way they wanted. “You didn’t save my marriage, God.” “You could have healed my spouse.” “You could have given ME that promotion instead of the other guy.” “Why did you let me lose my house?” And Jesus tells us here and in the verse from 1 Corinthians above that without the help of the Holy Spirit, we can’t possibly understand Who He is and what He is doing in our lives. Spiritual things are revealed by the Spirit.

Maybe you are in a place where you are grumbling like the disciples and thinking “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Jesus is saying, “Trust me! I am the very One you need for your sustenance and survival. Eternal life is found nowhere else. The teaching may be hard - your circumstances may be beyond anything you can comprehend, but I AM the Bread of Life, I AM in control, and I KNOW where I’m taking you!” Holy Spirit, please reveal to those who are hurting, and maybe even grumbling, what you are working out in their lives. Help them to trust and believe that Jesus is everything they need.

Prayer request for baby Royce!

I have an update on sweet baby Royce. His grandmother, Pammie, texted last night requesting prayers all day today as Royce is having a procedure done on his heart sometime today. The heart surgeon is calling it a “temporary fix.” The procedure is called a pulmonary banding procedure, and it will restrict the blood flow to the lungs. If all goes well, and there is NO blood on the head, his open heart surgery will take place in about six weeks. Pammie says Royce is a fighter! For every step backward, he is making two steps forward. She writes, “We thank you all for your love, support, and above all your prayers. We pray that God’s abundant love covers each of you with good health and many blessings.” Continue to pray for the strengthening of his mommy and daddy! This is going to be a "long-haul" challenge for them!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

John 6:30-40

When Jesus told the crowd that the work of God is to believe in Him, they apparently didn’t like this answer, because they made a different demand:

So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (John 6:30-31)

They had already seen Him feed the five thousand the day before, so it wasn’t that they had not seen His power. But, because they were probably hungry after following Him over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and because they were looking for material not spiritual satisfaction, they wanted more food! “Do it again! That was cool! And if you do it THIS time, we’ll believe!” When what we’re seeking is temporal, we will never have enough! They wanted to see a “Moses” kind of miracle!

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” (vs. 32-34)

This is so much like the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Just as Jesus told her He could give her Living Water so that she would never thirst again, He is telling these hungry people that He can satisfy them so that they will never hunger again. And just like the woman, they say, “Bring it on!” However, the similarity ends there, for their response to Jesus’ next declaration is grumbling, not belief:

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (vs. 35-40)

This declaration of Jesus is one of the “I AM’s” of John’s gospel. It should have immediately taken the Jewish listeners back to Moses’ encounter with God. When Moses asked God His name (Exodus 3:14), God answered, “I AM.” It speaks of His self-existent, eternal nature. Jon Courson points out that Moses may have thought, “You are WHAT?” And Courson reminds us that Jesus is the answer to that question. Just before His crucifixion, when Jesus was praying in the garden, He says to the Father, “I have made you known to them.” (John 17:26)

To those who hunger and thirst, Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Living Water, Who completely satisfies all spiritual needs. He fills the emptiness with the fullness of Himself. (Ephesians 1:23) And you can’t get any fuller than that!

Did you notice the wonderful promise tucked away in this passage? “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away... I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (vs.37,39) That’s how secure our eternal future is in Him! He will hold onto us and not lose one of us who come to Him believing He is the Son of God and God the Son.

I love the many verses that speak to our eternal security! In every other religion you are left wondering if you will make it to Heaven or Nirvana or whatever. You never really know if you will measure up. But because, for believers in Christ, our eternal life depends solely on Who Jesus is and what He has accomplished, we can KNOW for a certainty that when we die we will be with Him forever. This is our blessed HOPE! (Eph 1:18)

Are you one who is constantly searching for that one thing that will fill up your emptiness? You thought it would be your spouse, then maybe your children, or maybe the house, the new car, or the promotion at work... yet after the initial happiness that those things bring, there is the eventual gnawing again. You are hungry for something, but you don’t know what it is! Jesus promises that, as the Bread of Life, He will complete you and fill you to the fullest measure - to overflowing! The life He promises is abundant! Too bad this crowd couldn’t see it!


Monday, March 5, 2012

John 6:25-29

After Jesus and the disciples landed on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, it didn’t take long for the crowds who had been fed by him to follow.

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:25-27)

Jesus knew that their motivation for seeking Him out had nothing to do with their spiritual need. They were focused on their stomachs! So often people will turn to Jesus to get something from Him: a physical healing, a turnaround in their marriage, a better job, a mate, etc. And we can be a part of that problem when we tell people, “Come to Jesus! He will solve all of your problems!” So people who come to Him with this selling point are later disappointed when the “happy-ever-after” ending doesn’t appear. They remain sick, the marriage falls apart, they don’t get the job, and they no mate appears.

They don’t understand that their main need is to resolve the sin problem. They don’t get that Jesus wants to CHANGE them from the inside out. He didn’t come to put on a dog and pony show, performing miracles for the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the crowd. He came to rescue us from sin! He did not come to give them bread to eat but to BE the Bread of Life Who would satisfy their deepest needs.

Jesus tells this crowd that they need eternal food that only He can give. Their next question is an important one:

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (vs. 28-29)

The first time I ever read these verses they practically jumped off the page at me. Isn’t this the question everyone wants to know? “Just tell me what to DO, LORD, and I will DO it! What is it that You want me to DO to secure eternal life with You??” Jesus tells them that there is but one work that God requires: believe in Jesus! That’s it! He could have given them a laundry list of things to do! He could have told them to pray a certain way, so many times, to perform certain rituals, or even to give to charity. There are so many things that WE think we must do to win His approval, and that even some religious leaders insist we must DO. But Jesus says the work of God is to believe in Him!

Does this mean we don’t need to do good works? Certainly not! James tells us “faith without works is dead.” Our works, done from a heart that loves God and that are in response to the abundant grace He has lavished on us (Eph 1:7), show others that we have been changed, and, more importantly, they glorify our Father. But they don’t save us, nor do they make God love us more. It is impossible for God to love us anymore than He already does. For crying out loud, He loved us while we were yet sinners! (Rom 5:7-8)

I once heard a radio minister describe explain this passage tis way: God is asking us to obey the ONE thing He wants us to do - believe in Jesus. Suppose you, as a parent, had asked your child to do just ONE thing while you were gone for the afternoon: fold the laundry. When you returned the laundry was still in piles all over the floor. But your child points to his bedroom and says, “But I made my bed and straightened out my room!” You would say, “And you did a great job, but that’s not what I asked you to do. I asked you to fold the laundry.” Even though your child had not been lazy, and had actually done a terrific job in the bedroom, he had nonetheless disobeyed you. We spend our lives rushing from one “good work” to another, but if we have not obeyed Him in this one work that He requires, we will have wasted our energy and, worse, we would have missed eternal life!

This theme of believing is the dominant theme of John. It matters what we believe and in Whom we believe! Don’t waste your life striving to please God on your own. Just obey Him: believe in the One He has sent!


Friday, March 2, 2012

John 6:16-24

Today’s story is so familiar to some of us, that we may miss the wonderful lessons for us in it! After having fed the crowd, Jesus saw that they were wanting to make him their king, Jesus went alone to a mountain to pray, while He sent the disciples off in a boat to head to Capernaum.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (John 6:16-21)

One of the details that John doesn’t give here, but that we find in Matthew 14:27 and Mark 6:45 is that Jesus MADE the disciples get into the boat. He purposely sent them out into a storm. So Jon Courson points out that Jesus is not just the Savior in the storm, but also the Sender of the storm. Some of you are in the middle of a “dangerous storm” right now (financial, marital, health issues, teenager problems, etc.), and you may be wondering what in the world is God doing, and why is He allowing it. Courson proposes that God has several purposes in sending us into storms: to give us new direction, to give us necessary correction, to give us needed protection, and to nurture perfection. Don’t you love four-point sermons with rhyme? :)

So how does this play out in our lives? First, because we are such stubborn creatures, sometimes God needs to let us face desperation before we will cry out to Him. In our self-sufficiency, we hang onto the idea that we are in charge until we’re forced by our circumstances to finally give over the reins. I have to admit that, before Don became a Christian, I used to pray, “God, get him, whatever it takes!”

Have you ever prayed that way for someone? And for some people, it’s that whatever-it-takes storm that finally breaks down their resistance. HOWEVER, I later discovered Romans 2:4 that tells us that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. Now, I know that Paul may have meant that God’s character is so good that He is the One who, in grace, leads us to Himself, which is certainly true! But when I discovered that verse, God gave me an “AHA!” moment, and I began to pray that God would so BLESS Don, that he would clearly see God’s hand in his life and turn to Him from a place of thankfulness. Isn’t that a nicer way to pray? :) Unfortunately, though, some stiff-necked sinners need a storm - a big storm!

When we look at the story of Jonah, we realize that sometimes God sends a storm our way to correct us. Jonah was running away from God, so God put him in a “whale” of a situation so that Jonah would come to the place of obedience. Because He loves us, God will not let us get away with disobedience - and He WILL chasten us!

In the case of the disciples, I agree with Jon Courson, that Jesus wanted to give the disciples protection by sending them into the storm. They were in danger of being swept up by the emotions of the crowd seeking to make Jesus king for all the wrong reasons, so He made them get into that boat. Sometimes, when the world threatens to pull us away (through our association with a worldly group of friends, because of our love of alcohol or material things, etc.), God will send us into a storm to remove those temptations and distractions.

Finally, God loves us too much to leave us the way we are, so storms can be a necessary step to our purification. He wants us to become mature, and the only way to mold us into the person He wants to use is to put us into situations that will grow our faith - and there’s nothing like a big storm to put the fear of God into us! When the waves are so high around us and threaten to destroy us, we learn that the Sender of the Storm is also the Savior of the storm. And, surely, this is what the disciples learned when they saw Jesus coming to them on the water. No wonder they were “willing to take him into the boat !” And IMMEDIATELY the seas calmed (Matt 14:32), and they “reached the shore where they were heading.”

Jesus knows where He’s taking us! If you are in the midst of the most frightening storm of your life, don’t fear. Take courage! The Sender of the storm is also the Savior of the storm. Job learned this in the midst of his storm:

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. (Job 23:10-11)


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Update on Royce

Just wanted to quickly tell you that Erin was finally able to hold her baby, Royce, on Tuesday! Imagine waiting that long! Royce continues to be in stable condition, so keep those prayers coming! Pammie texted me yesterday to let me know that Royce means son of the King! Hallelujah! I’ve been praying that he would grow up to serve his Father with his whole heart, so it was such a confirmation that his name demonstrates his relationship with the Father!!

I wanted you to know that each of Pammie’s messages has been so full of faith and praises to the LORD! And she is praying every day that all who have been praying for Royce would be doubly blessed by God.

Need to get to work early today, so more from John tomorrow!