Saturday, February 6, 2016

Listening to the Valid Testimony

31“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.
33“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
36“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39You studyc the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.(John 5)

Thoughts: As we find out almost every election- polls can be wrong.  Yet many people would take a poll to find out what is moral or what people think about Jesus or the Bible.  These polls- these "testimonies" are not very valid.  What counts is not what the masses think but what does God the Maker of all think.
     In this passage Jesus speaks of the Spirit of truth- the Holy Spirit- and His testimony as being more important that "human testimony" (vs. 34).  Jesus also speaks of John the Baptist's testimony- who he called "the greatest born among women" (Mt. 11:11).  The works of Christ- His miracles- testified that He came from the Father.  The Father Himself testifies to Jesus through the scriptures.  Ironically, the Pharisees, scribes, and teachers of the Law diligently studied the scriptures, but they did not respond to what they said.  They were blind to what was before them.  They had ears but could not hear.  In the end, believing what the scriptures say is the key.  Jesus said as much here.  But the key is not just the testimony- and what we hear.  The key is to respond to them- and their call to come to Jesus to have eternal life.  

Prayer: Lord, give me faith to believe the scriptures are your Word that point to the Living Word of Jesus.  Give me grace to come to you to have eternal life. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Those who Hear Will LIve

24“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.25Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5)

Thoughts: Those who hear will live.  Hearing God leads to life. This is the lesson in these verses: Hear God and live.  If you hear His word and respond in  belief- you have eternal life- not after you die, but right now.  Eternal life begins the minute we hear and respond.  At the end of time the real power of hearing the word will become evident- (vss. 25,28) people will hear his voice in the grave and come out.  In fact this is repeated twice so that no will doubt he said this.  The power of Jesus to change us will be ultimately shown in changing us from death to life.  In the end, God's word will be heard.  Even those who don't follow God but do evil will also rise- but to judgment.  

Prayer: Lord, open my ears to hear your voice- both now and when I am in the grave. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Listening Beyond Our Constructs

John 5:16-18 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 

Thoughts: The leaders of the Jews were certain of their pre-conceived ideas and constructs. They did not want to her about Jesus' healing, or Jesus' claims to be the Son of God.  The lesson here is not to get upset at these long-dead leaders, but to make sure we don't stay blind to what God is doing in our midst. We can listen to the Lord and have ears to hear.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to see your deeds.  Open my ears your words

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Listening to Get Well

 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5)

Thoughts: Some listen to their own ruts.  We can get into our mind what is impossible.  So Jesus asked this man "Do you want to get well?"  His reply was basically, "I can't."  His reply was basically, "Even if the miracle would hold true, I couldn't get down to take part into it."
      For many, they are caught into the rut of sin.  They don't believe they can get well.  But Jesus asks us, "Do you want to get well?"  If we know we are sick- whether it is sick physically, mentally, socially, or spiritually- the question is not how to cope with the rut of our sickness, but do we want to get well.  True religion is not about coping, but about healing.  The standard is not just a little better- but the best we can be.
       The next step was to listen to Jesus' command.  He said to the lame man to "pick up your mat and walk."  He didn't believe he could, unless he listened to the voice of the Messiah.  If we listen, trust the words of the Messiah, we can do more than we can ask or imagine. 

Prayer: Lord, let me listen to your voice and keep me from only hearing the voices of low expectations and despair.  My hope is in you, O Lord.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Listening to the Greatest Listener

7When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.a )
10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”....
28Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4)

Thoughts: The woman at the well listened to Jesus because He listened to her.  Jesus knew her before she ever knew him.  He knew she had five husbands and was living with a man who wasn't her husband. He knew she was looking for more- someone/something that would fulfill her life.  He was willing to listen to her- when everyone else had shunned her- though she was a Samaritan and he was a Jew; though she was female and he was male.  She listened to Him because He was a great listener to her.  He seemed to listen to her soul.  So she boldly told her people, "Come see a man who told me everything I ever did."  He claimed to offer her eternal life (living water), and told her He was the Messiah and she believed.
     Winning people to Christ requires listening.  We fail when we spout out simple answers or even complex ones- but do not listen to the heart of the person speaking.  This takes focus, time, attention.  In a world in which we are distracted by so many selfish pleasures and individual messages (texts, emails, instagram, facebook, snapchat, etc.) it is hard to even focus on family and those immediately around us- much less a stranger in need like this woman.  

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you are the greatest listener.  You listen to my soul, you see my needs before I can express them, but you also listen to my cry.  Hear me.  Give me grace to hear you.  Give the courage to invest my time in listening to others in your name. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Beauty of Choice

Many are called but few are chosen.  Matthew 22:24

Thoughts: There has been a long line of people who have put their hat into the presidential race.
Many were called indeed, but few are chosen.   God has a right to call everyone- whosoever will- let them come.  God also has a right to choose.
     The fact that there is variety in life is evidence of God's choice.  Different trees show God loves variety, and this shows that God did not choose to not have everything the same in a false idea of equality as sameness.
     That God chose Israel to be a nation of priests. In John 4 Jesus said, "salvation is from the Jews."
      That God chose Jesus is a sign that God chooses and it is okay to make such a choice.  The beauty of Jesus is the choice that is made.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord for the beauty and variety of life and the church.

Rebelling Against God's Call- Jonah

1The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
4Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
11The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (Jonah 1) 

Thoughts: Jonah was a prophet.  He is mentioned in other places (2 Kings 14:15; Matthew 11:30) as an important prophetic figure.  His main role was to go to the capital of the Mediterranean world at that time (Ninevah- a very wicked city), and ask them to repent.  Jonah did not want to go.  Instead he tried to "run away from the Lord."  He was running away from God's call for him.  As many scholars have pointed out, Tarshish, where he was headed, was a resort city on the Spanish Riviera.   It would be similar to God calling you to go to help in one of the poorest places in Mexico on a mission trip, and you chose to go to Cancun or Acapulco resort instead.  There are times when God calls us to do something that is not comfortable.  Our comfort is not the main thing- but fulfilling God's purpose is.
     The great news is even though Jonah ran away, the Lord ran after him to help him fulfill His purpose.  Instead of just choosing someone else, God continued to call, mold, and shape Jonah.  It is a testimony to God's grace that He is patient and gracious to us.  God used a miracle to turn Jonah around.  Sometimes God pursues us (the Hound of heaven idea), and our call. 

Prayer: Lord, let me have ears to hear and a heart and strength  to respond to your call.