Friday, September 28, 2012

John 19:16b-22

Before I begin this morning, I want to thank you for your prayers! My sister, Jodi, and her husband, Ed, who has been my big brother for 50 years, arrived Wednesday to spend two nights with us. Jodi looks fabulous! Her shingles have been very mild and are healing. I’m so thankful to have this time with them both! They will leave this morning to travel to Modesto, where they will visit with Justin’s widow, Stephanie, and their four grandchildren. Please pray for protection of Jodi’s health while she is with these little ones, as her immune system is extremely compromised at this time.

This morning we come to the Crucifixion. We will stay here, at the foot of the cross, for a while, looking at all of the accounts of it, because there are so many aspects to this most important event. As we read about the Crucifixion, let’s try to grasp the full picture, imagine the surrounding crowds, and see ourselves there. In which group would we find ourselves? We’ll start with John’s version:

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).  Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS.  Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” (John 16b-22)

On his way to Calvary (the Latin name for Golgotha), Jesus carried his own cross, at first. But we know from the other gospels that the soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene, who just happened to be passing by, to pick up the cross. The cross would have been extremely heavy, and Jesus’ back had been completely shredded by the scourging.

Jesus was placed on the cross between two thieves, and Pilate placed the sign above Jesus’ head that, while mocking, actually spoke the truth. Jesus had come to His own, and indeed was their King - whether or not they acknowledged it.

Isaiah, in the Old Testament, and Paul, in the New Testament, both tell us that the day is coming when EVERY knee will bow, and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD, that He is, indeed the King of Kings (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10). But on the day of His Crucifixion, that sign offended and angered the Jews who were there. They demanded that Pilate change the inscription, but, finally, and too late to matter, Pilate stood his ground! I think he was so miserable over his weakness as a leader and his part in this situation that he was completely done with this mob.

So, in today’s scene we witnessed the scene of this execution. We saw the soldiers, who had mocked and beaten Jesus, lead Him out of the city where they nailed Him to the Cross. There was Simon of Cyrene, the innocent bystander who happened to be in the right place at the right time. In the background, there was Pilate, who, fearing men more than God, ultimately ordered execution of this innocent man and had the sign proclaiming Jesus’ identity to be placed over his head. And finally, there were the Jews, who were infuriated by that sign - the sign which limited their “victory.”

Next time we will watch as Old Testament scriptures were fulfilled, and we will look at one final group who stood near the cross. While we are tempted to blame Pilate or the Jews for this horrible event, let’s never forget that what actually put Jesus on that cross was our own sin! I always need to personalize that! It was MY sin that nailed Him to that cross! Pilate and the Jewish mob were responsible for their part (that was their sin), but MY sin, our sin was what put Him there!  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

John 19:1-16

I’m hoping you will read today’s passage in one sitting, because you don’t want to miss the power of the scene as Pilate allows the opinion of men to overcome his conscience. Although he found no blame in Jesus, he felt the need to placate the crowd. So he ordered Jesus to be flogged, to receive 39 lashes with a flagellum.

A flagellum was a short whip with braided leather straps that had small balls of iron and sharp pieces of sheep bones attached to it. It was standard practice to scourge someone who was being executed. Jesus would have been stripped and tied to a pole with his arms over his head and his backside exposed. The lacerations would have completely shredded his back, and the blood loss and intense pain would most likely have taken him to a pre-shock condition (I googled this). John’s gospel reduces this to one verse, before it describes His humiliation at the hands of the Roman soldiers:

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.  The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe  and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face. 

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.”  When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” 

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 19:1-6)

We know from Isaiah 52:14 that Jesus was beaten beyond recognition. So Pilate brought him out before the crowds, hoping this would be enough for them. Once again, Pilate declared Jesus innocent, but the crowd was vehement in their demand for Jesus’ crucifixion. Then the Jews reveal the real reason they were so violently opposed to Jesus:

The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” (verse 7)

This freaked Pilate out! So he went back inside the palace to interrogate Jesus about His identity. Jesus refused to answer him.

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free... (vs.10-12a)

Pilate tried desperately to wash his hands of this matter, but he refused, in the end to stand up for righteousness, because he cared more about his power and career than he did the Truth. He made one final attempt to get out of responsibility, presenting Jesus to the crowd, but in the end he sealed his fate in infamy:

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. 

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. (vs.15b-16)

The chief priests, though making a blatantly false claim to loyalty to Caesar in order to accomplish their ends, nevertheless revealed that they would never have Christ as their King. They, too, sealed their fate. And what we do with Jesus determines our eternal fate. At one point in His ministry, as recorded in Matthew 16:15, Jesus turned to His disciples, and He asked them the one question that we all must answer:

“But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

John 18:38b-40

After interviewing Jesus and dismissing the idea of Truth, Pilate goes back to the Jewish leaders with an attempt to appease them:

With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.  But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” 

They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion. (John 18:38b-40)

Even though he saw that Jesus was innocent of any charges, Pilate wants to placate the Jewish leaders, so he hoped to put the decision of Jesus’ fate on their heads. The custom was to release a prisoner for Passover, so he offered them Barabbas. Barabbas means son of the father. He was a Jewish rebel who had been part of an attempted sedition. Luke’s account tells us that he was actually charged with murder (Luke 23:19). Pilate probably figured that they would not want an obvious criminal type released over the innocent man, Jesus.

Pilate did not get the extent of the threat Jesus posed to the world. As Courson points out, Jesus would not bring in His Kingdom with violence or insurrection. He would bring it about through the regeneration of hearts. That was not what the people expected, nor was it what they wanted. Courson writes, “The crowd wanted activity, not spirituality. They wanted insurrection, not resurrection. They wanted to do something, not be something. They wanted Barabbas.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 414)

Give most people a “to do” list for getting into Heaven, and they would be happy. “Just tell me what to do! I can volunteer at a homeless shelter. I’ll visit old people in a rest home. I’ll donate money to good causes. Just tell me what to DO!” But Jesus had given only one job in response to this demand:

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

Salvation is a matter of the heart. It is not about what we do, but about what He has already done

Given the choice between submission to God’s plan vs. relying on our own ability to save ourselves, people seem to prefer Barabbas. We prefer taking charge like the rebellious people we are.

So Pilate, receiving no relief from his role as executioner, must try another tack. We’ll see that tomorrow.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

John 18:28-38a

I have un update on Jacob, my former student who is battling Hodgkin’s Disease. Jacob’s recent x-rays showed substantial shrinkage of the tumors in his chest after the first round of chemo. This is great news! He entered the hospital Monday for round two. Please pray that the chemo would knock out the “enemy” cells in his body. Also, pray that he would be encouraged and strengthened in his spirit and in his body.

I’m awaiting news from my sister, Jodi, today on whether or not her doctor will release her to travel out here this week. I’ll let you know! Thanks for your prayers!

This morning we will look at Jesus’ appearance before Pontius Pilate.

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

Isn’t it amazing that the Jewish leaders were not worrying about be defiled by the murder of Jesus? They wanted to enlist the help of Pilate, but they didn’t want to be contaminated by him! It would be funny, if it weren’t so serious and if we didn’t also do the same things ourselves! We worry about how we look at church and that we get there on time, but think nothing about gossiping over donuts after the service! We may not see our inconsistencies, but others do!

So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 

“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” 

Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” (vs. 29-31a)

Pilate was going to be very careful with these Jews. He did not need anymore trouble with them. Jon Courson points out that Pilate was “a former slave, who through marriage and political maneuvering” became the Procurator of Jerusalem, after the Jews had appealed to Rome for a replacement for the incompetent Herod Archelaus. He had two previous problems in his dealings with the Jews and was on warning from Rome to shape up. So he tells them to take care of Jesus according to their own laws. Now, this was a problem for the Jewish leaders:

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected.  This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled. (vs.31b-32)

In 30 A.D., Rome had taken away the Jewish right to execute criminals. They needed Pilate to accomplish this. So Pilate goes back and interviews the prisoner himself:

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. 

Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 

“What is truth?” Pilate asked. (vs.33-38a)

When Pilate questioned Jesus, Jesus understood that Pilate did not really want any answers. Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” was a disdainful rhetorical question, not the question of a seeker. Jesus promised here that anyone seeking truth will listen to Him. And we know from Jeremiah 29:13, that all who seek Him, find God: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Had Pilate been a true seeker, Jesus would have opened his eyes to the Truth standing before him. But none of the parties there was interested in the Truth. They all had too much to lose if they had actually sought it. The Jewish leaders and Pilate were only concerned with their own power and authority over the people. They did no want Jesus messing with their comfortable lives. And isn’t that how we feel sometimes? Before coming to Christ I agonized over how my life might change if I submitted to His authority. Would it ruin my marriage? Would God send me out into the streets with tracts? Would I become one of those “Jesus freaks?” Well, yes to the last one!! I am still a Jesus freak, 36 years later!!

As much as Pilate tried to get rid of Jesus, he wasn’t finished with Him yet. Tune in tomorrow!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

John 18 side trip to Mark with prayer request!

This morning I’m asking for prayer for my sweet sister, Jodi! As you know, she spent the summer going through a second round of stem cell transfusion and chemo due to the multiple myeloma. She and her husband Ed were supposed to arrive here next week for a visit, then go on to Northern California to visit with her son’s widow and her four grandchildren there. However, she left me a phone message saying she now has shingles!!! Please pray that our LORD will have mercy on her and heal her NOW! I’m just heartsick for her! She said in the message that she thinks it will only delay her by one day...Oh, Lord, please be close to her! Thank you for praying for her!

Before we move ahead in John, I wanted to take a small side trip to Mark’s account of Jesus’ appearance before the high priest and the Jewish leaders. There are some important details in here that shed light on their purpose in taking Jesus to Pontius Pilate.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any.  Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. 

Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him:  “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’”  Yet even then their testimony did not agree. (Mark 14:55-59)

When evil men plot, God thwarts them! The Jewish leaders could find no evidence against him, because He was sinless! Liars breed nothing but confusion.

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”  But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. 

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” 

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 

The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” 

They all condemned him as worthy of death.  Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him. (Mark 14:60-65)

When Jesus claimed that they would see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, this was a reference to a Messianic prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14.

 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." 

The Jewish leaders knew EXACTLY what Jesus was claiming here. Thus the charge of blasphemy, and the move to kill Him. Mark records the humiliation and the beatings Jesus received then before he was bound over to Pilate. Next week we’ll look at this next step toward the Cross.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

John 18:25-27

This morning we will look at Peter’s lowest moment, when he denied Christ three times, just as Jesus had predicted. John’s gospel gives the briefest picture of the scene:

As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” 

He denied it, saying, “I am not.” 

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?”  Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (John 18:25-27)

John, the Apostle of love, probably knew the pain Peter felt, and did not belabor the humiliation. He chose to give more emphasis to the restoration of Peter after Jesus’ was resurrected. The other gospels, however, give more detail about how vehemently Peter denied Christ that day. Matthew’s version shows Peter’s emotional state more clearly:

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 

But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 

Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 

He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 

After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” 

Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” 

Immediately a rooster crowed.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)

Luke adds one more significant detail:

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)

Only a short time before this, Peter had rushed to Jesus’ defense swinging his sword at Malchus. Then, with as much passion, out of fear for his own safety, he denied even knowing Christ. Peter had been impulsive and sure of himself. He was positive that, even if everyone else denied Christ, he never would. (Matthew 26:33) Peter needed some humbling so that God might lift him up to become an apostle of reconciliation.

No one understands grace better than someone who has fallen and then been lifted. I’m certain that when Jesus looked straight at Peter, His eyes were filled with love and mercy, rather than condemnation. Jesus had warned Peter earlier that Satan had asked to sift him - but Jesus had assured Peter that He had prayed for him. In fact He said, “...when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)

We are all guilty of denying Christ at some point so that we might better fit in. It might be laughing at an inappropriate joke, or going to the R-rated movie with the girlfriends, or gossiping at the water cooler with the rest of the gang. Nothing too overt, just a mild, “I don’t know Him.” At other times our behavior may scream, “I’ve never met Him!!” How sweet of the Holy Spirit at those times to convict us with a rooster’s crow and bring us up short! And even better is the look of love from Jesus, who is always praying for us when Satan tries to sift us!

Peter immediately was filled with remorse. He repented! And for a while he must have been overcome with grief, not only for the loss of Jesus, but grief deepened by his betrayal. But, hallelujah, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) We will see later how gently Jesus restored Peter. Aren’t we so very thankful for our own restoration?? What a wonderful Savior!  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

John 18:12-23

In our reading today, the “camera” of John’s gospel shifts its focus back and forth between the scene with Jesus before Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law of Caiphas the high priest at that time, and the scene with Peter, who followed Jesus from a distance.

Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him  and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.  Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people. (John 18:12-14)

The first thing that Jon Courson notes here is that what bound Jesus was not chains or ropes, but His love for us. We need to remember that Jesus was in complete control at all times. He could have called down a legion of angels at any time if He wanted to save Himself. But He didn’t come to save Himself - He came to save us! Also, how ironic is Caiphas’ statement that one man should day for the people! He had no idea!

The camera angle widens to show Peter and John coming into the scene:

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard,  but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself. (vs.15-18)

Matthew tells us that Peter followed Jesus at a distance (Matt 26:58). So, while Peter did not scatter with the rest, he was not close to Jesus at this point - which, we will see, was a problem. John, the “other disciple” mentioned here, apparently knew the high priest, so he was able to witness the events from the inside. He manages to get Peter in the courtyard. As Peter enters, a young girl questions Peter directly about his affiliation with Jesus, and Peter makes hi first denial, just as Jesus predicted. Then Peter cozies up to the fire in the courtyard and warms himself with the enemies of Jesus. Can’t you almost hear the warning beep because he’s too close?

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret.  Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” 

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. 

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”  Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest. (vs. 19-23)

It’s interesting that, according to Jon Courson, Jewish law had an equivalent stipulation that made it illegal to have a defendant incriminate himself, much like our Fifth Amendment. So, even at the outset, the trials of Jesus were illegally handled. In reminding the High Priest that witnesses could be called, Jesus was implying that the proceedings were illegal, which is why the official struck him across the face. Courson reminds us that his would be just the first of many blows that would disfigure him to the point that he was beyond recognition. (Isaiah 52:14)

I don’t know about you, but reading the endings of each of the gospels always makes me tense up. It’s so horrifying to me to read of His treatment at the hands of religious leaders. But we will see ourselves in these scenes. Whether an unbeliever outright rejects, scoffs at, or violently persecutes Christ, or a believer denies Him with words or actions, ALL of us placed Him on that cross. Tomorrow we will look at the mercy shown to Peter after he denies Christ for a second and third time. It will be painful - but so hopeful!  

Monday, September 17, 2012

John 18:1-11

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. 

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.  So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. (John 18:1-3)

Jesus was in a peaceful grove when Judas comes in with a large company of Roman soldiers (Jon Courson says there would have been as many as 600 men in a detachment), and some Jewish leaders. They brought torches and weapons, expecting resistance. Instead, Jesus, in complete control, stepped right up:

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. 

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)  When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (vs.4-6)

We know from the other gospel accounts that Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss. You have to wonder why Judas would bother to attempt a show of respect and affection when he had a contingent with him to arrest Jesus! When the men ask for Him, Jesus answers with the Hebrew, Ego Eimi, “I AM,” a declaration of deity. The power of that statement knocks all of the men down like bowling pins. Imagine the sounds of the armor and weapons clanking as all of those men hit the dust!

Jesus waited for them to regather themselves and asked once again, “Who is it you want?” Remember, He could have easily split here! Instead, He willingly gave Himself up for us. Jon Courson wonders if the men were a little hesitant to answer the second time!

“I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”  This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (vs.8-9)

Jesus’ concern was for His disciples. At this point, all but Peter and John scattered. Peter proved, once again, his impulsive, but misguided zeal for Jesus:

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (vs.10-11)

How I love Peter! His devotion to Jesus was complete - and yet, he so often misread the heart of Jesus! He picked up the sword to harm - maybe even kill - Malchus and to protect Jesus, who needed NO protection. We do NOT need to defend God! So often we quickly pick up our Bible (our Sword) and flail away at someone to make our point in our effort to “defend” God. And sometimes, what we end up doing is more harm than good. The Sword of the Spirit IS our weapon against spiritual warfare, but we need to use it prayerfully, in the power of the Holy Spirit and at the LORD’ s direction.

In Luke 22:51 we are told that Jesus restored Malchus’ ear with a complete healing. Had He not done that, Jon Courson speculates that there would have been four crosses, as Peter could have been executed for the offense. Jesus did not want to fight what was coming - He walked right into it, for the joy set before Him. That joy was the saving of many, including us. He was resolute in His mission. Think about that kind of love! Amazing!  

Friday, September 14, 2012

John 17:24-26 & some prayer updates

I first want to update you on some of those we are praying for. I received the following from Jacob’s mom, Lori:

Jacob is home.  We had an appointment today and his white blood count is super low, but that is expected.  We will work on getting him strong over this week and next.  He will be admitted again on the 24th for a week to start his second round of chemo.  

Karen has been given a date for her kidney transplant! She writes, Kristen and I will both have our final cross match appointments on October 22nd and as long as everything looks good we are scheduled for the transplant on Tuesday, November 13th. 

Gavyn had a setback yesterday. He lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital. After many tests and scans, the good news was that there was no problem with his brain and there had not been a seizure. However, his blood pressure is very low. His mom reports that they were hoping to get his blood pressure regulated through the night in order that he be discharged in time to perform at The Taste of Newport late today! Singing is Gavyn’s passion, so this means so much to him.

Please continue to pray for protection for the health of these three!! Pray that God would make Himself so present in their lives and that He would be glorified!

And now we come to the the end of Jesus' precious prayer to His Father. This is what John records of His prayer just prior to being arrested:

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:24-26)

Oh, how wonderful to know that Jesus wants us to be with Him in Heaven! That is our promise and glorious hope! (John 14:1-3) Jesus affirms that He has indeed made the Father known to the disciples - not only by His presence on earth, by what He did here, but also by what He declared. He made God known to us in order that we might experience and demonstrate the love of the Father. We cannot know God or get to God the Father, except through the Son (John 14:6). And eternal life is found in knowing God, having that personal relationship with Him. (John 17:3)

Jesus had completed His earthly ministry. All that was left was to finish the work on the Cross. Having poured out His heart to the Father, he was resolute in facing what was next: being separated from the Father as he bore the punishment for all of the sins of the world, past, present, and future.

We need to keep this prayer before us as our reminder that He anguished over the urgent desire that we would be sanctified by His Word, that we would be unified in heart and purpose, and that we would demonstrate the same love that the Father has for the Son. These were Christ’s priorities for us. They need to be our priorities, too.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

John 17:20-23 Part 2

Knowing the emphasis on unity in this prayer of Jesus, I turned this morning to see if Jon Courson might shed more light on the subject in his Application Commentary: New Testament. Well, he actually devoted several pages to these verses, so I thought I’d share some of what he has to say.
He writes about two reasons why the unity of believers is so important to God. First, it gives Him pleasure to see His children united, in the same way a mother is pleased when her children are playing together, sharing toys, and saying kind things to each other. Doesn’t that just warm your heart when that happens? Second, power is found in unity. A group united behind a purpose is so much more powerful than an individual.

Then Courson deals with the issues that he believes lead to division, and I’m going to summarize here, because I think many of them are so closely related. He mentions competition, favoritism, and jealousy separately, but I believe they are inextricably entwined. There are several examples from the Old Testament that Courson mentions: Cain and Able, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers. Favoritism, or perceived favoritism leads to competition and jealousy. When a parent favors one child over the others, or even gives more negative attention to one child to the point of almost ignoring the others, division in the home follows.

Whether Dad favors his jock, who is the football all-star, or Mom’s attention is focused on the rebel who is creating chaos due to his drug use, or even if the parents, by necessity, have to focus on the child who is chronically ill, there is a breeding ground for jealousy. Satan just looks for those kinds of footholds! How carefully we have to consciously balance our time, attention, and affection among our children!

In the church we see competition emerge as the local small churches compete with the megachurches and their flashy programs. It’s easy to get caught up in the counting of heads, or assume God’s greater blessing on the church that pulls in millions of dollars in tithes and owns a TV station, etc. The good thing about having a variety of churches is that there is something for every personality. We need to be careful that we don’t fall into “church envy!”

The other things which Courson mentions are related to gossip and legalism, which I think are also closely related. He points to Genesis 9:20-22, when Noah gets drunk and lays naked in his tent. His son, Ham, sees him lying naked and runs to tell his brothers. Oh, don’t we love to expose the sin of others! Often we do it under the pretense of asking for prayer for someone: “Pray for Betsy. She’s having an affair!” Instead, how much more merciful would we be to follow the example of Noah’s other two sons, Shem and Japheth. When Ham ran to them with the story, they took a blanket, walked in to their father’s tent backwards so as not to glimpse his nakedness, and they covered his nakedness. What a better response! It’s what Christ has done for our nakedness!

Courson points to the cure for division in the church, but I believe it also applies at work or in the home He writes about how some people prefer the high liturgical churches, with “...the swishing of robes, the chanting of choirs... the burning of incense ...the flickering candles.” Others prefer the “low liturgical order” with complete informality, where “...there’s prophecy, tongues, an interpretation, some healings, and some spontaneous sharing...”

Other churches, which Courson characterizes as the left-leaning, social activist churches, don’t care so much about the liturgy, but focus completely on “...caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless.” The other extreme would be the churches of fundamentalists, “who tend to congregate on the right side of the spectrum...” grounding their “...people in the Word, in the importance of doctrine.”

While these seem to naturally point to division, Courson sees the making of unity: “Put all these flavors together - the height, the depth, the left, the right - and they form a cross. And that’s where fellowship is found. Not in doctrine, not in activism, not in causes, not in crusades. True fellowship is found when we finally say, “The Lord is bigger than I thought.” You see, gang, the Lord looks at those high liturgical churches as a reflection of His holiness; at those who worship sans liturgy as a reflection of His power; at “left wing” activists as a reflection of His compassion; at “right-wing” fundamentalists as a reflection of His righteousness.” (Courson, P.577-581)

Finally, Courson reminds us that we are ALL sinners saved by grace! We can live in unity if we remember that “live in the shadow of Calvary.” Amen!  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

John 17:20-23

There seems to be an urgency in this next precious section of Jesus’ prayer in which He prays for us. Note that of utmost importance to Christ is that those who would believe in Him would be one:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:  I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

I have always loved the fact that Jesus is looking forward here to the future believers, including you and me! What was it that He wanted most for us - so much so that it was the focus of this final prayer of anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane? He wanted us to be ONE! To be united in our love for Him and in our purpose to glorify Him. He specifically ties the need for our unity to our witness to the world. We must be one in heart and purpose in taking the gospel to the world so that the world may believe in Christ! Such unity would display the Father’s love to the world.

You can see why Satan does everything he can to cause division among believers, whether between husband and wife, co-workers, or even among and within denominations and congregations. Division absolutely undermines the credibility of our witness to the world. Within a marriage it destroys the witness of parents to children. Within a workplace, it nullifies the message of the gospel to co-workers. And within churches it destroys the witness to an entire community.

That’s why it is so important that we recognize division as spiritual warfare. The LORD has been dealing with me about this within my own workplace. and my part in working toward unity. The believers in a workplace need to come together for the sake of the gospel and pray for unity and work for unity. This means setting aside our personal agendas, because it’s NOT about us, and focusing on Christ. It means remembering that we have all been placed in our specific jobs to glorify Him as we do the very best job we can at all times.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

In this passage of John, when Jesus was about to be arrested and crucified for our sins, foremost in His mind was that we would be ONE. How are we working toward that? Are we praying for it? Are we consciously thinking about steps we can personally take to encourage unity? We need to remember that our contention with other believers stumbles others and keeps them from seeing Christ and the love of the Father. That doesn’t mean we compromise on the essentials of the gospel for unity’s sake. WHAT we believe matters. It’s why John wrote this gospel. But gossip and petty arguments among believers are killers of faith - and I’m preaching to myself here!

Father, may we be one - and may I be a peacemaker who works toward unity with my fellow believers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

John 17:15-19

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:15-19)

In John 17:14, Jesus acknowledged that the world is a place that hates His disciples. So part of the anguish He went through in the Garden of Gethsemane, was knowing what persecution and temptation they would be facing - and what we would be facing. So,as Jesus continued to pray for His disciples, He focused on their need to be set apart from the world they would live in. This world is filled with sorrow, turmoil, and evil! The disciples would be IN it, but not OF it. They were set apart, or sanctified, for God’s holy purposes. They would be Christ’s ambassadors to a lost and dying world - and in order to be kept from being polluted by it, they would need to be sanctified while in it.

“Sanctification” is one of those big theological words that describes a lifelong process, yet is also something we have the minute we receive Christ as our Savior. Ephesians 2:6 tells us that God has already “seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” We are already set apart for God. Yet we are being transformed more and more into His image as we grow in Christ.

It’s ironic that this sanctification, or being set apart from the world as holy and wholly for God, is specifically for the purpose of sending us forth INTO the world - to make a difference for Christ. He has not called us to a life of separation from the world, but to be light and salt in the world. How do we do this? How can we be sanctified in the midst of it? By the power of God’s Word - the Truth!

Jesus said that we are sanctified “by the truth,” which is His Word. As we read and study His Word, we are progressively being changed into the people God designed us to become. And as we learn His Word, we become more shielded from the enemy in this world, Satan.

I know that I cannot go out into the world each morning, ready to face spiritual warfare, without arming myself first in His Word. On those days that I attempt it, I’m feeling nearly defeated almost from the time I arrive at work. My heart fills up with resentments and I’m overcome by impatience, and, basically, rendered useless for God. But when I begin my morning in His glorious Word, getting His viewpoint for the day, I’m filled to the brim and more able to face the onslaught.

Weather to the contrary, we are now entering the fall season. It’s the time when new Bible studies are starting up again. If you haven’t already done so, find one at your church or at a friend’s church. Or check out Bible Study Fellowship - there is bound to be a class near you! Make a commitment to put on the whole armor of God daily, that you might be increasingly sanctified for God. My church is starting next week in Beth Moore’s new study of the book of James, one of the most practical books on living out the Christian faith. If you are in the South Orange County area, check it out: Crossline Women's Bible Study

Tomorrow, we will begin the last section of this precious prayer time of Jesus with the Father, in which He prays specifically for you and me! Can’t wait!

In the meantime, I want to share what, Carrol Velarde, one of here, wrote me yesterday after reading about Jesus' prayer that we might have the full measure of [his] joy (John 17: 13). She had heard a great definition of joy at church that she wanted to share: “Joy is an inner attitude of the heart given to everyone who believes the Gospel.  Joy is produced by the Holy Spirit through obedience to the Word.  It emerges through suffering.  It is experienced in fellowship with other believers and is based on the hope of future glory. So my prayer today is that you all be filled with the joy of the Lord!” Thanks, Carrol!  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

John 17:11-14

I’m backing up a verse to start our study this morning, as a reminder of the concern Jesus had for His disciples as He prayed for them:

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.  While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” (John 17:11-14)

I believe that Jesus anguished over what His disciples would face in the world: the persecution, beatings, imprisonment, and even death. So He asked the Father to protect them. More than physical protection, I think He was asking for spiritual protection, because He referred to how He had protected them while He was with them, and, except for Judas, none was “lost.” They remained in the faith. I think Jesus wanted their hearts protected no matter what they would suffer in the world. Jesus had promised they would have trials in the world, but he knew that the real danger would be in the spiritual realm.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

I love that Jesus said that He was praying for them “so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” Even though they would face hardships, Jesus said they would have JOY! As a new Christian, 36 years ago, one of the first things that struck me was that I was suddenly aware of joy. I had not used that word in my personal vocabulary - even though I was very happy with my life. But joy wasn’t something I really thought about. But once I gave my life to Christ, I experienced that inner joy and peace that only He can give. And I found it was NOT dependent upon my circumstances.

Even in the midst of the worst trials of our lives, we can have Christ’s full measure of joy, because we now have an eternal perspective:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

This is the view that Jesus wanted His disciples to maintain. It’s what He prayed for. And it was an eternal perspective that sustained their joy and sustains ours - even in a world that hates Christians! Yesterday we talked about how our unity is a witness to the world. Well, so is our joy! If we don’t have joy, why would anyone want what we have? Jesus prayed in anguish that we would have the full measure of His joy. Can people see that in us?  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Update on Jacob and recommendation

Good morning, friends!

Don and I went to visit Jacob yesterday after school - after what should have been his first day of high school! We stayed a short time, because he is in ICU and had family there. It was so good to see him! He was feeling a little better yesterday, although nauseous. He was waiting for the delivery of a taco, so the fact that he had an appetite was good.

Jacob will remain in the hospital for a few more days, and he will be out of school for four to six months. He will have a home teacher from the district. This has been such a shocking change of direction for their family! His mom, Lori, has three other sons (two in elementary and one in middle school). She is having to learn a whole new vocabulary and adjust to a new routine, while remaining calm and supportive, when she, herself, needs support. It was good to see that she has her extended family around (her parents were both there, and we left as Jacob’s other grandparents arrived).

One of the sweet things for me to see as his former fourth and fifth grade teacher was the visit of a former classmate from that class, Andrea. She arrived with a giant “get well” card that she had made and that was signed by many classmates. Andrea has been hospitalized herself before and knew what it would mean! No wonder that class has such a special place in my heart! She is planning a class reunion once Jacob comes home and is ready for such a visit.

Thanks for your continued prayers. This will be a long ordeal for Jacob and his family! Now - because I’ve got parking lot duty at school this morning, and need to rush out the door, I wanted to point you once again to my daughter, Molly’s blog this morning - a great reminder about letting God have HIS way! Enjoy: Foot Stomping and Pouty Faces

Stay tuned for great things in our next look at John 17!  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

John 17:6-11

Yesterday, we looked at the first part of Jesus’ prayer, in which He prayed for Himself - that the Father would glorify the Son, so that the Son would glorify the Father. We need to remember that this is the same prayer time that is mentioned in Luke 22, Matthew 26, and Mark 14. It was prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. According to Courson, Gethsemane means olive press, where olives are crushed to release their oil. Courson writes, “The crushing, the pressing Jesus endured in Gethsemane as He was about to feel the wrath of His Father for the sin of all humanity, so far exceeds anything we can even begin to comprehend that it is rendered incomprehensible.” (Courson P. 407)

We know from these passages that Jesus prayed that the Father would take away the cup of suffering He was about to drink. But He also prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will...” In Luke it says, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) I believe that Jesus was in anguish, not just because of what He was facing personally, but because of what He knew the disciples, and all believers would face. So, as we look at the rest of this passage in the next few days, let’s keep that in mind. He was so impassioned about what He was praying, that He was in anguish.

After praying for Himself, this is the first part of His prayer for the disciples:

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.  Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.  For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.  I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.  All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.  I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:6-11)

What jumps out at me immediately is that Jesus specifically said, “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me.” Jesus was focused on those who believe - in this section, the disciples. Although we know, from John 3:16, that “God so loved the world...” Jesus was only praying for those the Father had given Him - the “whosoever believeth” from the rest of that verse. The whole world does NOT believe in Jesus Christ, and this is NOT a universal prayer here.

And more importantly, what is it that He prayed? That “they may be one as we are one.” This is what He agonized over for us. Unity within the Church is a huge part of our witness. Our unity is found in our understanding of who Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross. Most other issues are the minor things we not only disagree about, but what we form churches around! They are they things that divide and destroy our witness to the world(baptism, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, what day to worship, how to worship, how to take communion, what communion means, etc.).

Years ago, when I was new to the interdenominational group, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), our teaching leader asked everyone to shout out the names of their particular churches. It was massive confusion, with an unintelligible sound. Complete discord! Then she asked us to shout out the name “Jesus Christ.” It was a clear, beautiful act of worship! When we unify around the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God the Son, our witness is powerful. But when we let denominational arguments get in the way, we make anything but a joyful noise to the world! Jesus agonized over this, because He wants us to glorify our Father in heaven!

More tomorrow, but I want to give a tremendous praise report. I asked you to pray for Celeste, a fellow teacher friend who was hospitalized in great pain, because scar tissue was blocking her intestines (by the way, her previous surgeries that lead to the scar tissues were for cervical, not breast cancer, and C-section). Anyway, God heard and answered our prayers! The problem is gone, and Celeste is home. She texted me this message this morning, “Thank you so much! I am so humbled and thankful for everyone’s prayers and kind thoughts. The week was scary and yucky, but each day I tried so hard to stay in prayer, keep reading His word, and have faith that He would heal me. Praise God! What a lesson I learned in faithfulness! I can’t thank you enough for keeping me in your prayers...” Thank you, God!!! I am going to visit Jacob this afternoon, so I will give you an update later. Thank you, prayer warriors!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

John 17:1-5

This morning we come back to John’s Gospel at a most precious place. When we last left this book, Jesus had just completed His last teaching to His disciples. There was an urgency in the teaching, because Jesus knew He was about to die. Now, in this chapter, Jesus turns to His Father. This is the prayer of a dying Savior. How blessed we are to be able to listen in to the most intimate prayer of the Son. We know that what He says here is of eternal importance, so let’s pay especially close attention.

According to Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary: New Testament, this passage was the favorite of the Scottish reformer, John Knox, who called it the “Holy of Holies in the Temple of Scripture.” Courson writes, “So much did Knox love this chapter, as he lay on his deathbed, he had it read to him over and over again.” (P.572)

As we look at this amazing prayer, let’s think about another point Courson makes: “Prayer is not the way to get God to do our will in heaven. Prayer is the way to get man to do God’s will on earth.” And Jesus was all about doing His Father’s will. We will spend some time in here, so let’s first just look at the initial verses:

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:1-5)

The words “glory” or “glorify” appear five times in this short passage. It is really what Jesus’ entire life and ministry was all about: glorifying the Father on earth - revealing or illuminating His nature and person to the world. Even in asking that He, the Son, would be glorified, His purpose was that God the Father would be glorified through it - even though it meant a horrific death on the Cross.

I’ve underlined the second and third sentences in my Bible, because the statements seem so significant to me: Jesus is the one who gives eternal life to those whom the Father has given Him. First, Jesus is not just a messenger or teacher - He’s the Giver of eternal life! And second, it is not given to everyone - but to those whom the Father gives to the Son. John stated in the first chapter of his Gospel, “Yet to all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed on his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) You aren’t born naturally as a child of God; you become a child of God by believing in Jesus Christ.

In fact, that is the exact statement Jesus made in this prayer in the third verse, when He said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Knowing God, having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ - THIS is eternal life. Jesus is saying in these first verses that He glorified the Father by making Him known to those the Father gave the Son. That was His number one purpose: making the Father known. And He asserts in the opening of His prayer, in the fourth verse, that He had completed that work! He had COMPLETED it!

I see two very important applications here: first, we are to glorify the Father, NOT ourselves, in all that we do; and second, we are to complete the work He has given us. Courson reminds us that Jesus said, “Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify the Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Whatever you do for the LORD should point people to Him, so that they think, “Wow! God is amazing!” It’s why He chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things!

Finally, when we know God has given us a task to do, we need to complete it. Jesus was able to say He had completed all He was supposed to when He was on the cross. He said, “It is finished!” - not, “almost done!” Don’t we want to be able to say that on our death beds???

So much here, and we’re only getting started! So glad to be back in His Word!  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Much needed prayer!

Hello, dear friends! I am somewhat overwhelmed today by the needs for prayer that I’ve been faced with in the past few days. I hate to burden you all, but for those of you who are prayer warriors I just thought I’d share some special needs:

First, two former students of mine, both high school freshman now, have serious health issues. Gavyn, whom I’ve mentioned before, continues to be plagued with kidney problems. He as been in and out of the hospital and a few weeks ago was back in because his transplanted kidney is not working well. Please pray that he will be completely healed! And I just received an email last night from Jacob’s mom telling me that Jacob was just diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s! He is currently in CHOC in Orange, receiving massive chemo. Again, Jacob needs a miracle, so pray that Almighty God will touch Jacob’s body and completely restore his health. Pray for the families of these two boys (especially the moms), as the stress and worry naturally overwhelm them. Pray for peace and rest as they look to God to provide all they need.

A sweet teacher friend, Celeste, who joins us for Bible study here, was treated a couple of years ago for breast cancer and is in remission. However, she just went into the hospital a few days ago in great pain because she has scar tissue from the surgery that is actually invading her intestines. Please pray for wisdom for her doctors and for relief from pain for Celeste.

Speaking of kidneys: Karen, one of my favorite former parents (I had her older daughter, Kristen, in first and fifth grades – now 25) learned last year that her kidneys are only working at 10%. She has been on the transplant list at UCLA, and just learned that Kristen is a match and will donate a kidney to her mom at the end of this year. Please pray for them both as they prepare, and pray that Karen’s kidneys will remain stable while they wait. Karen, too, is a reader with us here.

Please pray for the husband of my dear friend, Marie. Greg had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus last week and was doing really well, until he started feeling “cramps.” Luckily he thought to take himself to the emergency room Thursday, while Marie was in her classroom preparing for school in a room that had no cell coverage! Turns out he has some deep vein blood clots! So now Marie is the “nurse” giving him heparin shots twice a day to break up the clots! Greg will be taking coumadin for the next six months. I told Marie that I’m sure he feels like he’s sitting on a ticking time bomb, but my husband assures me that the heparin therapy will do its job. Please pray that the clots completely dissolve QUICKLY and that Greg and Marie will have total peace!

Another sweet friend (remaining nameless to all but God), just found out she has cancer in the uterine wall. She will be seeing an oncologist this week for further testing and to plan for her surgery and treatment. Pray for wisdom for her doctors and for peace for my friend.

Baby Royce continues to need our prayers although he is growing well and is a very happy baby. He has a long road ahead, but God has been so faithful.  I will get an update on Valen for you this week.

Finally, I have asked for prayers for my sister, Jodi, for a year and a half now. You may remember that last year, within 24 hours, she learned she had multiple myeloma (a form of bone cancer) and that her 35 year old son, Justin, had died of sudden cardiac arrest. She spent all last summer in isolation in the hospital as she went through a stem cell transplant and chemo, while trying to somehow come to grips with the tragic loss of Justin (he left a beautiful wife, Stephanie, three precious young boys and had a daughter on the way – who was later born last August). She was back in the hospital this summer for a second batch of stem cells and more chemo, and recently returned home extremely exhausted. In the meantime, she has lost two very close friends – one just last week. It’s all just so much! Please pray that this last treatment will complete the job of healing. Pray that God will continue to lift her up and be her strength, hope, and joy. And because her immune system is so compromised right now, please pray that the LORD will protect her from any bugs! So many needs, but one HUGE God!