Sunday, March 30, 2014

3/31/14- God Glorified Through Jesus

1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. (John 17:1-5)

Thoughts: The focus is all on God being glorified here through Jesus.  While He is in this life, Jesus appears to be just an ordinary man.  It is through the cross and the resurrection that Jesus is truly honored.  Over and over Jesus says that when He is lifted up He will draw all to Himself.  It is only after the resurrection that Jesus gives the great commission to spread the good news- to glorify God through Jesus.  Jesus desires that people know the only true God.  It is not, as some postmodernists believe, that it doesn't matter what we believe.  The words here "only" and "true" point to a uniqueness in faith and belief.
     Jesus also describes eternal life.  It is not going to heaven- though eternal life moves from this life to the next.  For John, eternal life begins now- in this life.  It begins when we begin to know God.  To know God involves also knowing Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  In John if we do not know the Son, we do not know the Father.  It is possible for whosoever to come and know God.  Jesus is not talking about knowing "about" God- but knowing the person of God in love, in a relationship.  Jesus continually calls us to love God and to love neighbor.  This love does not involve book knowledge but a relationship- of trust.  God is glorified when we know Him and love Him.  Jesus begins this great prayer asking that the Father would be honored through Him.  We too should pray that in the end God would be honored through us.  

Prayer: Lord, may you be glorified by my knowing you and inviting others to establish a relationship with you as well. 


Saturday, March 29, 2014

3/30/13- Spirit of Truth

26“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (John 16:26-27)

Thoughts: The Holy Spirit, is our advocate- our lawyer- our counselor.  The Greek word is "Parakletos" the one called along side to help us.  The Spirit is the Spirit of truth.  So the Spirit does not contradict Himself or change His mind, His promise, His truth.  But the Spirit leads us into truth, and leads us to share (testify to) the truth.  Jesus was saying that the Disciples not only may testify, or should testify, but they must.  The longer we have been with Jesus the more we want to speak of Him.  

Prayer: Holy Spirit, lead me into your truth, and give me the opportunity to share that truth. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

3-29-14 Persecution for Faith

18“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.20Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’b If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.25But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (John 15:18-25)

Thoughts: A couple of weeks ago an Air Force Academy Cadet was severely pressured to take down a scripture verse he had on a whiteboard outside of his room.  In the name of pluralism, freedom of religion and freedom of speech were squelched.  Read the comments online on most articles of religion on or the NY Times website, and you will find deep hatred for those who believe. There are lawsuits to take down memorial crosses for fallen soldiers, though put up decades ago, in the name of not "offending" anyone. Doubtless Jesus was crucified in order to not offend the Pharisees with His narrow claims or the Romans with His Kingship.
     Though Christianity is the strongest religion in America and has fostered a world of good with care for the hungry, the poor, starting schools, colleges, hospitals, homes for the elderly and homes for orphaned or abused children, it is being attacked on many fronts.  Christians are being displaced in Iraq, the Sudan, Palestine, and now the very place where Christians were first called "Christian"- Syria.  Open Doors estimates 100 million persecuted Christians today.  It is curious why people get so upset at Christians- even if they differ from them- but they do.  But we should not be surprised, Jesus said.  If the world hates our Lord, it probably will hate others who stand for a combination of truth and love together.  

Prayer: Lord, we pray for those who are persecuted for their faith.  Thank you for your love and grace that faces hatred with sacrifice and love.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

3-28-14 Bearing Fruit

8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17This is my command: Love each other.  (John 15:8-17)

Thoughts: We are created to bear fruit for Him.  If we do not bear fruit, we will be pruned away as dead weight to the body of Christ (the church).  There are at least three different kinds of fruit talked about in the New Testament.  1) The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5)- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 2) The fruit of a well lived- life.  Romans and James talk about persevering and hope producing maturity- a fruitful Christian life.  3) The fruit of reproducing faith in others.  Fruit is how a tree reproduces itself, and there is a sense when we share our faith and people respond to the Good News we are reproducing ourselves and Christ in us- in others.  Our faith is not simply in order to help us be more fulfilled and happy.  Such a faith is not fruit-bearing, but becomes self-centered.  If we abide in Christ, we are being nourished so that we might bear fruit- not that we might be bloated with nourishment.  Our passage says (vs. 16) we were "chosen" to bear fruit.  We were not created to simply be fulfilled.  We were created to bear fruit.
     The best of the fruit is love.  It is the first of the fruit of the Spirit.  It is the greatest of the Spiritual gifts.  It is the greatest commandment and the command that Jesus is focusing on right before His death.  Jesus says the greatest love is shown in sacrifice.  His "new command" is not to love neighbor as self, but to love others as He loved us- in unconditional sacrifice.  The greatest fruit is love, and the greatest love is like Christ's sacrifice.

Prayer: Lord, May my life bear fruit for you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

3/27/14- Abide in Christ

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesa so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.(John 15:1-5)

Thoughts: Jesus is the vine from whom we are nourished and live.  Cut off from Him, we cannot glorify God, and our work for God is just going through the motions. On our own, we cannot produce the kind of fruit that God desires.  So our worship, our prayers, our preaching, our teaching, our helping the needy, our caring for the sick apart from Him is nothing.  We do not have life in ourselves, and we cannot glorify God apart from abiding in God.  The person who abides in sin without repentance and humility cannot glorify God- for sin separates us from the Holy God (Ps. 5:4,5; 66:18).
          The first step in fruit bearing is simply remaining in Him (Maneo- abiding, staying, living in).  The Navigators (Dawson Trottman) came up with the wheel illustration based on John 15.  it involves putting Christ in the center of our lives as the Hub; having spokes of the Word, prayer, Fellowship, and witnessing; and obedience as where the rubber meets the road (see below).  We might add the sacraments in here too.  The point is, our main task is to abide in Him and let Him work through us. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

3-26-14 Fake vs Real Religious Love

22Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
23Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave. (John 14:22-31)

Thoughts: This passage really is about fake religious love (illustrated in Judas) and real love (illustrated in Jesus).  Judas, the betrayer, asks why Jesus doesn't market himself better.  Perhaps he betrayed Jesus in order to force his hand at who He was, or more likely felt like Jesus' movement was going the wrong direction.  John portrays Judas as the treasurer who embezzles.  Even in a group of twelve, that Jesus Himself picked, there is sin, division, and embarrassment. Being in a church doesn't make you a Christian any more than being in a hospital makes you a doctor.  There are always those who fake love for God.  Perhaps Judas words prompted Him to not talk about His marketing strategy but to answer Judas speaking of Judas lack of obedience and love.  If we do not really love Christ, it is hard to fake it in Christ's service. Judas feigned love and betrayed Christ with a loveless kiss.  But the Holy Spirit, makes the faith real to us (26). Judas was eaten up inside- torn within himself.  But Jesus says he gives us peace- from trouble and fear.   Jesus, in contrast to Judas (who betrays and disobeys), loves and obeys God the Father (23 vs. 31). So our task is to love and to obey. 

Prayer: Help me to love you more, listen to you better, and follow you with my whole heart. 


Monday, March 24, 2014

3-26-14 Spirit and Law

15“If you love me, keep my commands. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will bec in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”  (John 14:15-21)

Thoughts: The Law and the Spirit are not separate as many suppose these days.  The Spirit does not contradict Himself- for the Spirit is a Spirit of truth (vs. 17).  So the Spirit, who gave the Law, does not change His promises or Laws.  That does not mean that certain laws (like laws specific to the nation of Israel or the sacrifices before Jesus' ultimate sacrifice) no longer apply.  There is also a gradual unveiling (some would say "progression") in revelation.  So Jesus clarifies that to keep the commands of God shows love for Him.  The Spirit helped write the Law and gives guidance in keeping it, as well as grace in the rigidity of the Law.  Love and Law go together similarly like Spirit and Law.  The first Law is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and the second Law is to love neighbor as self.
    So the Law without the grace of the Spirit is legalism.  The Spirit without the Law is not the spirit of righteousness.  The Spirit does not break His own laws, nor does the Law go against the Spirit.  So the Spirit will not command us to lie, or steal, or commit adultery or make idols, or murder, or covet.  In fact, the Spirit enables us to have strength, courage, and creativity to keep the Law.  When we break the Law, we grieve the Spirit.  We quench the Spirit when we try to keep the Law apart from Him.  The Law was given at Pentecost, and the Spirit was given at Pentecost.  They are not of or from two different gods- but they are one.    

Prayer: Lord, Send your Spirit to me to keep your Law.  Help me to love you more that I may keep it in my heart as well as in my actions.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

3-24-14 Jesus and the Father

 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:10-14) 

Thoughts: Jesus says He is in the Father and the Father is in Him plainly twice and expounds on it in several ways.  Jesus is one in essence with the Father.
   1. He speaks with the Father's authority (vs. 10).  The Son has the power to speak for the Father to the people. 

   2. (10,11) The Father lives in and works through Him.  His work is the Father's work.
   3. He is going back home to the Father.  The Father's home is His home.
   4. He will answer our prayers when they are made in His name.  The Father is honored to answer prayers made in the name of the Son. When the Son's name is honored, so is the Father honored.
So these four things give us some idea of the oneness of Jesus, the Son, with the Father.  Basically, if we honor and pray to Jesus we also glorify and honor the Father. 

Prayer: Help me to honor you, Lord.  May I honor your name as well as pray in your name, Jesus. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

3-23-14- The Way, Truth and Life

 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.7If you really know me, you will knowb my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  (John 14:5-10)

Thoughts: Thomas and Philip speak for those of us in the West who have a hard time believing if we do not see.  Jesus had more confidence in them than they had in Him, in themselves, or that the way would really work for getting them to heaven.  Jesus was trying to get His disciples who had lived with Him and seen His miracles, love, and grace to trust that He is the One who will pave the way to heaven for them.
      Jesus makes the outstanding and unique claim that he is the only way to the Father.  Then He says He is the way, truth, and life.  The way- was not just the gate to heaven, but the path of righteousness and holiness that led to the holy Father (Dt. 5:32,33; 31:29; Isa. 30:21; 35:8).  Jesus not only is holy and teaches holiness, He is able to make us holy by His sacrifice-providing a way of restoration to the right path to God.  He is the truth.  Pilate asked- looking at Jesus- "What is truth?" For many there is no purpose, meaning, or truth in life- but Jesus stands against them all as a marker of truth and hope.  Jesus is the life.  He makes life worth living- giving direction and purpose to it.  Jesus earlier had said He comes to give us life to the full (Jn. 10:10).  He offers us meaningful life here and eternal life after this life is over.  Many others would claim to know the way, teach the truth, and show us how to live- but Jesus claimed more- to actually be the way, truth, and life.  He claims divinity here when He claims that to see Him is to see the Father.  His claims to be more than human are everywhere in the Gospels, and they make a claim to give the path, the truth, and life to us.  

Prayer:  Lord, keep me from going the wrong way, seeking falsehood or apathy instead of truth, or giving up on life instead of living my life for you and in you. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

3-22-14 No Worries Mate

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in Goda ; believe also in me. 2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)

Thoughts: In Australia they often say, "No worries mate."  So Jesus, right before the worst time of all, tried to encourage His disciples to not be troubled.  The way we get over our fears, worries, and troubles is to have faith, hope, and love.  So Christ tells them to believe and trust that He is going to die for their good and is going to get things ready for them.  I like the King James Version which says that "in my Father's House there are many mansions."  It could be defied as mansions or very big rooms.  The point is that there is a wonderful spot and space designed for us.   He also promises to come back and not leave us alone.  He also reminded them to stay in His way, His path.  So there is hope and peace when we walk in Jesus' way and not our own way.  

Prayer: Lord, in this life, it is so easy to worry.  When dark days come, and it seems you have left us.  Help me to believe and trust in you.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

3-21-14 Loving Unconditionally and Faithfully

31When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him,c God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
36Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
37Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
38Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:31-38)

Thoughts: For Jesus, the glorification of God was equivalent with his Passion and crucifixion.  One of his last commands was to love each other as He loves- giving His life for them.  His love was selfless, sacrificial, unconditional.  Leviticus had the old command to love neighbor as self.  But Jesus gives us a command to go beyond love of self- to sacrificial- selfless love.
      Peter has good intentions that he would follow Christ anywhere, but really he was fickle.  When confronted with his own possible arrest he would claim that he did not know Jesus.  Too many times, we have good intentions to be faithful, but we do not follow through.  Our hopes are that our love for God will be unconditional and faithful as His love toward us is unconditional and faithful.  

Prayer: Lord, may my love for you never fail.  May I not put conditions or my own safety as a part of love for you.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

3-20-14 The Betrayal Predicted

18“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turneda against me.’b
19“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (John 13:18-29)

Thoughts: Jesus predicts both Judas's betrayal and Peter's denial recorded in John 13 near the time of his arrest.  It must have been so sad that his treasurer and lead disciple would let him down so.  The question may be if Jesus predicted such actions, were they responsible for their actions.  The Bible indicates they were- whether we understand how or not.  So there is no excuses to shirk our responsibility because we somehow think it doesn't matter what we do- or that God is so much in control.   The truth appears to be both that God is in control and uses our free actions to achieve His purposes.
      Betrayal is the anti-virtue.  It goes against loyalty, faithfulness, and love-- the things Jesus stood for.  Turning away when we have seen and experienced the truth is devastating, and is so hard to overcome and come back again.  So Judas, who realized his wrong later and gave back his pieces of silver, does not come back to his disciples but commits suicide.  We should never take lightly leaving the faith or falling out of the habit.  Such actions spurn the love Christ showed us on the cross as if it was not important.  It is truly hard to come back to faith or to the church once we have left out of disuse or denial of faith. 

Prayer: Lord, let me never betray or deny you.  Thank you for your love for me. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

3-19-14 Jesus Shows His Love

1It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:1-17)
Thoughts: One of the last things Jesus did besides the last supper was to train His disciples on the concept of service and love.  First the Master played the role of a slave, washing the dirty feet of His apostles.  He teaches not only that He washes us and cares for us, but that He came in humility.  For us to follow Christ, we must not want the first place at the table, nor want everyone to respect us.  The Lord wishes us to serve others in love and humility. 
     The Last Supper is prominently in the background.  John mentions it here (13:2) and later in 13:22-27- not in the same sense as the synoptic gospels.  John does not emphasize the sacrificial/Passover nature of the meal.  He mentions the preparation of the meal- washing feet by the Lord.  Then John mentions the betrayal at the meal.  But above all that is mentioned is the humility, servitude and love.  Jesus was teaching the embodiment of the Christian ethic he taught in the Beatitudes.  One translation says of this act: "He showed them the full extent of His love."  So we are called by Jesus' example to humble ourselves, serve others, and love in His name.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your beautiful example of love.  Help me to love in humility and service because you have loved me. 
(Jesus washing Peter's feet- 1876 Ford Maddox Brown)