“I have told you this so that through me you may have peace. In the world you’ll have trouble, but be courageous—I’ve overcome the world!”
John 16 is a very tender scene where Jesus is trying to help His disciples get a grip on what is going to happen imminently. It’s easy for those of us who can look back at what happened and wonder why they were repeatedly so dense, but everything about what Jesus was doing was a new concept to them—and continued to be a new concept. I remind you that until the angel came to speak to Zechariah and Mary just before Jesus’ birth, the Jews had had NO WORD from God in four hundred years! They were a little out of practice! Furthermore, they had NO IDEA that the Holy Spirit would soon be indwelling believers—and not one clue that a brand new age would begin (the church age), where Jew and Gentile alike would form a new group of people who belonged to God. They didn’t know that the millennia of following the Law was about to end. All they knew was that their beloved Teacher and Messiah was talking about going away! There is some very important information about the Holy Spirit in this chapter that we’ll return to some day, Lord willing, but I have to confess that the last sentence of this chapter has been one of my favorites for a long time. “I have told you this so that through Me you may have peace. . .” Who doesn’t want peace! Even the unsaved want peace, even though they have no idea what it truly is or how to get it. The biblical view of peace is more than just the absence of hard stuff. Biblical peace has in mind the addition of blessings—which is, of course, always found in a right relationship with God. We can ask ourselves a few key questions about peace based on this verse to inform us, comfort us, encourage us, and get us excited about serving God more fully and wholeheartedly. -Can we have peace? Yes! -Where is it found? In Jesus; in what He has told us in His Word, including in the fact that we have the Holy Spirit to help us to understand and to obey. -Can we find peace in the world? No. What the world has to offer is TROUBLE. -Should we be afraid and demoralized at this? No! Jesus has already overcome the world. Victory has already been won. Our salvation is a fact NOW. In Jesus, we are already sanctified, justified, and righteous. We just have a little wait to SEE it for ourselves. -With what attitude should we be living? That of courage—because our Savior, Jesus Christ, has overcome the world and it has no power over us. We belong to God. Do you have peace? Based on today’s verse, why or why not? (Just a reminder: if you have been noting each day this month what you learned about Jesus, now is a good time to review it.)
October 29, 2016
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vintner. He cuts off every branch that does not produce fruit in me, and he cuts back every branch that does produce fruit, so that it might produce more fruit. You are already clean because of what I’ve spoken to you. “Abide in me, and I will abide in you. Just as the branch cannot produce fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who abides in me while I abide in him produces much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Unless a person abides in me, he is thrown away like a pruned branch and dries up. People gather such branches, throw them into a fire, and they are burned up. “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you can ask for anything you want, and you’ll receive it. This is how my Father is glorified, when you produce a lot of fruit and so prove to be my disciples. Just as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. So abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you’ll abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I’ve told you this, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you. No one shows greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. But I’ve called you friends, because I’ve made known to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. I have appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you. I am giving you these commandments so that you may love one another.”
You may have noticed that I bolded (is that a word???) the things that Jesus said about Himself in this famous vine/branch passage. I did this to help us focus on our goal for the month: finding out what the Bible says about Jesus. HOWEVER, did you notice that what Jesus tells us about Himself is hopelessly intertwined with what He wants us to be and do? That Who He is, is essential to what we are to be? Do you think that this is a mistake? That the passage on THE Vine and all the branches being all tangled up together was poor grammar? I don’t think so. I think the very use of words in this passage can give us a picture in our mind of vines that intertwine and overlap, but which have but one source: the vine. And that is the lesson of the passage, to be sure. Jesus is the “Vine” that we are to remain connected to so that we will know how to live and how to please the Father by bearing fruit as we obey His Word. Really, the whole Christian life is summed up in these few short verses. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. WITH Him, we can do anything! Don’t miss, either, the little critical lesson on prayer in verse 7. When we are living according to God’s Word, obeying what it says, trusting that what He said is true, believing all His promises, then our prayers will reflect His will, and thus will be granted. God is not going to give us things that harm us, but when we are praying according to His will, then there is no limit—because God has no limit. Furthermore, all this abiding in Christ and living according to God’s Word results in fruit—say maybe the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23? =) AND, as we become more like Christ, and the Holy Spirit is able to use our lives to demonstrate His fruit, God is being glorified. Awesome! (P.S. I hope you didn’t miss that nifty little bonus that those who are living faithfully for God, Jesus considers His FRIENDS!)
October 28, 2016
“Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?” Jesus asked him.”
I LOVE John 14, don’t you! Jesus tells us tons of crucial things in this chapter, things I am certain the disciples pondered over and over once Jesus had returned to His Father’s side. How blessed WE are to be able to read and re-read them! I admit to quite a bit of indecision about what to focus on in this special passage in regards to what God was teaching us about Christ Jesus, but my heart kept getting drawn back to what seemed a heart-breaking question that Jesus asked Philip: “Have I been with you all this time, and you still do not know Me?”
Wow. I don’t know about you, but all I could hear was Jesus asking ME that question! “Lorie, you have been a child of God since you were seven years old. How is it that you don’t know Me better?” How could there possibly be a flip answer to THAT??? Excuses? God sees all that I do. He knows what is in my mind before I utter a word. What excuse could there be? Explanations? Aren’t explanations often simply elaborate excuses? No. I think it has to be a simple recognition that I have failed God, and could indeed know Him better—which would, of course, lead to me trusting Him more in hard circumstances, and serving Him more fully and in a way that jives with what HE finds pleasing, not just my idea about what might be “good enough.” While prayerful, honest self-evaluation is a pretty important part of our spiritual walk, STAYING defeated and discouraged is not what God wants. Remember that abundant life in John 10? When we come to realize that we have fallen or failed (again!), the solution is always the same: fall at the feet of our Father, confessing sin, and relying on Him to help us mature and better obey Him from that point on. It is in searching Scripture to find the biblical remedy for wrong attitudes and actions. It is in remembering that the same God Who took us from spiritual DEATH and into spiritual life is the same God Who can enable us to live victoriously for Him, and yes, to know Jesus even better. How well do YOU know Jesus? How does your life and your life-goals reflect this?
October 27, 2016
“When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer robe, he sat down again and told them, “Do you realize what I’ve done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right because that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you must also wash one another’s feet. I’ve set an example for you, so that you may do as I have done to you. Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, a servant isn’t greater than his master, and a messenger isn’t greater than the one who sent him. If you understand these things, how blessed you are if you put them into practice!”
I think Jesus’ lesson is pretty cut and dried (pardon the pun … dried, as in drying feet!). What is common knowledge in worldly thinking is the opposite of how God wants us to think: a servant is not greater than his master, in fact, living a life of serving others makes you GREAT in God’s eyes. That’s sure backward from what TV shows portray! I’ve always sympathized with poor Peter sitting on a stool and watching THE SON OF GOD approach him to wash his FEET. That must have been a hard one, that’s for sure. But the lesson Jesus gave in His willing servitude must not be forgotten: He expects us to follow His example. As He submitted completely and constantly to the will of the Father, so should we—and sometimes that is seen in being humble, even when we DO know better, in sacrifice, when we’ve already given all we have, in patience, when gratitude is non-existent. You see, being a servant has never been about what’s in it for us. It’s about considering other people as more important than ourselves, and giving of ourselves to bless, encourage, and uplift—no matter the cost, without expecting anything in return. That’s not to say there’s no reward. Oh, there’s a reward, alright. A HUGE reward. Jesus said, “How blessed you are if you put them into practice!” If the God of heaven says we are blessed, those ol’ treasure chests are going to be brimming when we get to glory! And, best of all, just imagine with me for a moment the look of pleasure on our Savior’s face when we meet Him face-to-face for the first time—pleasure because we took His words to heart and lived the life of a servant to His honor and glory. Just boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
October 26, 2016
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived in Bethany, where Lazarus lived, the man whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a litron (about 12 ounces) of very expensive perfume made of pure nard and anointed Jesus’ feet. She wiped his feet with her hair, and the house became filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, who was going to betray him, asked, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for 300 denarii and the money given to the destitute?” He said this, not because he cared about the destitute, but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the moneybag and would steal what was put into it. Then Jesus said, “Leave her alone so she can observe the day of my burial, because you will always have the destitute with you, but you won’t always have me.”
I’ve always loved this story for several reasons. A biggie is that I bonded with Mary and Martha years ago, and I love these little stories where they are present. For all the people who came and went into Jesus’ life, they and their brother, Lazarus, seemed to be His friends, but more than the special bond of friendship, all three knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ was God’s Son, and their Messiah. In fact, I look forward one day to meeting Mary and Martha. I think that we’ll be good friends, too. Back to Jesus (which is a marvelous lesson all by itself—we should ALWAYS return to Jesus when we are thinking, planning, praising, worshipping…), we are told that it is now the week of Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion, and death. It was only six short days until THE day. Jesus’ time on earth was down to His last few hours. It would seem that not many people had a handle on this. Even His disciples that night of their last supper together, didn’t really understand what Jesus had been warning them about. BUT, enter Mary. It would seem that Mary understood. She, perhaps a single, perhaps a widow, had a bottle of perfume that was valued at an entire year’s worth of wages—and she took this extremely expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ head and feet (Matthew 26 and Mark 14 give additional details). Why did she do it? To us it seems really odd—and perhaps we may even sympathize with those who complained that it was wasting good money. In the culture of that day, newly deceased bodies were anointed with perfumes and spices, then lovingly wrapped in long cloths before being placed in a tomb. Mary, in an act of adoration and worship, chose to anoint Jesus early. She wanted to be able to do it while He was still alive. She wanted to do the most humble thing a woman could do, unbind her hair and use it to wipe His feet. She wanted Him to have no doubts as to her love and appreciation for what He was about to do for her. Beautiful, wouldn’t you say? But, although I’ve already written a lot, I also wanted to mention what Jesus said, because I think it is so important. Basically, He was saying that we shouldn’t take the people in our lives for granted. Obviously, here He was pointing out that His time on earth was done, but it is also true that none of us have any idea how long we have here on earth. Anyone can be taken home at any time. Oh, how we need to cherish each other! How we need make things right with people we are on the outs with! How we need to be patient and loving! How we need to say the important things—things having to do with eternity and being right with God! My heart always hurts a bit when I think about what must have been going through Mary’s heart and mind when she was ministering to Jesus that one last time, but, oh how thankful she must have been for the opportunity! She knew that was her last chance. Who is God laying on YOUR heart to be a blessing to, or to reconcile with, or to show appreciation for? What good will saving that expensive perfume be when they are gone?
October 25, 2016
“When Jesus saw her (Mary) crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was greatly troubled in spirit and deeply moved.”
We’ve been in the Book of John since October 11th, looking for what it teaches us about Jesus Christ, God’s Beloved Son. Today we have reached chapter 11. In case you’re not super familiar with what happens in the chapters of John, this is the chapter where Jesus raises His much-loved friend, Lazarus, from the grave. There are MANY things that we can learn about Jesus from this chapter, but since time is limited, let’s focus on just one verse. Verse 33 says that Jesus saw Mary crying, and He saw Mary and Martha’s friends crying, and it moved Him deeply. Clearly this isn’t just a casual glimpse at someone’s suffering, Jesus LOOKED at them and saw their anguish—and He felt that anguish Himself. John said that Jesus was greatly troubled in spirit and deeply moved. In fact, two verses later is the very famous verse, “Jesus wept” (the shortest verse in the Bible if you ever find yourself in a Bible trivia competition!). But wait a minute. Jesus knew what He was about to do according to the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit—He said so before He even got there in verses 14-15. Why was He sad when He knew Lazarus was going to be resurrected in a very short time? I think it is this: our God is not a God without compassion. In fact, here are just a few of the many verses that remind us that ours is a personal, loving, compassionate God, a God Who is also able to do anything; Whose power is unlimited. This is the One we call Father, and Who we can turn to any time for any burden, big or little. He may or may not “raise Lazarus from the dead,” but He is ALWAYS trustworthy and right in what He does. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah! He is our merciful Father and the God of all comfort." II Corinthians 1:3 “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, patient, and abundantly rich in gracious love.” Psalm 103:8 “Because of the Lord’s gracious love we are not consumed, since his compassions never end.” Lamentations 3:22 “When Jesus saw the crowds, he was deeply moved with compassion for them, because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or have no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these mothers may forget; But as for me, I’ll never forget you!” Isaiah 49:15 Based on these verses, and all the others that also teach about our compassionate - and mighty - Father, let us join the author of Hebrews in thanking God. “For God has said, “I will never leave you or abandon you.” Hence we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6
October 24, 2016
“So again Jesus said, “Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, I’m the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I’m the gate. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved. He’ll come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal, slaughter, and destroy. I’ve come that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “I’m the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired worker, who isn’t the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, deserts the sheep, and runs away. So the wolf snatches them and scatters them, because he’s a hired worker, and the sheep don’t matter to him. I’m the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that don’t belong to this fold. I must lead these also, and they’ll listen to my voice. So there will be one flock and one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it back again. No one is taking it from me; I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This is what my Father has commanded me.” My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. . . I give them eternal life, they’ll never be lost, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is more important than anything, and no one can snatch it from the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
When I was a pre-teen, our church showed two movies to us that left me traumatized for DECADES. They were “A Thief in the Night,” and “Distant Thunder,” and they were about the rapture and those left behind (this was many years before the Left Behind series). As much as these movies were trying to scare people into getting saved, I think what REALLY happened is that it encouraged a whole lot of people to have problems with their eternal security. They ended up with frequent doubts about whether they were truly saved—and panicked about what might happen should they be left behind. I’m not kidding to say that this was AWFUL—and I’ve met other adults who were equally upset well into their adulthood too.
THAT’S why John 10 is such an amazing blessing. John 10 is the place to turn to when you need assurance and comfort. Jesus states with utmost clarity that those who belong to Him WILL NOT and CAN NOT be taken from His loving, constant care. In fact, the picture of verses 28-30 is one of someone being safely in Jesus’ hand—and—HIS hand being encircled by the Father’s hand. Nothing could possibly remove the person who is in God’s hand. Nothing. Another aspect of John 10 that has blessed thousands upon thousands of believers is the reminder that Jesus came to not only give us new life, a life freed from sin and free to choose to do good, He came to give us ABUNDANT life. He wants us to be WILDLY successful in our holy living. He wants us to EXCEED in our faithfulness. He wants us to be COMPLETELY satisfied with our prayer life and time in Scripture. He wants us to EAGERLY anticipate His return in the clouds to catch us up so that we will forevermore be with Him. Oh, dear sister in Christ, if that doesn’t describe you, it can! Prayerfully seek God’s face, looking for how you can turn from self and turn to Him even more and in bigger and better ways. This is the kind of prayer God LOVES to answer, and before you know it, your new life will be abundant too; your joy will not depend on circumstances, your peace will not be limited to things going your way. Oh, you won’t be perfect (that’s not possible in this lifetime) but you can certainly grow more like Christ—and keep growing. What ISN’T possible is reaching the limits of God’s grace, goodness, or mercy, because His love and compassion are infinite. What a Shepherd we have!
October 22, 2016
“Then Jesus said, “I have come into this world to judge it, so that those who are blind may see and so that those who see may become blind.”
John 9 is the famous story about Jesus healing a blind man, who then was called before the religious leaders to identify Who Jesus was. Parts of the story are kind of funny, but other parts are sad. For example, his parents were afraid that they would get excommunicated from the synagogue (a VERY big deal), so they were unwilling to give simple testimony on their son’s behalf. He, on the other hand, WAS willing to speak up. However, at the time of his questioning, he didn’t know enough himself to give the leaders the answers they were looking for. What he DID know, though, was what he gave testimony to: he knew that he had been blind, but now he wasn’t. I bring this up in order to provide great encouragement to you and me as we try to tell others about Christ. We simply need to tell what WE know—no need to know all the fancy doctrinal terms, or all the references, or all the prophets ever born. We simply need to share with our family, friends, and others that we were once dead in our trespasses and sins, but because of what Jesus did, we are now spiritually alive and will live forever in God’s presence. In John 9:39, Jesus said that He had come to provide sight for those who were blind. And even though He had healed this man and given him physical sight, Jesus meant that those who trusted in Him as their Savior would have spiritual sight. This is true first of all in the area of salvation. Until any of us become a Christian, we will always be blind spiritually. However, this is ALSO true for Christians. Christians who allow sin to cloud their judgment and who live according to something other than God’s Word, will get problems with their vision, and if not fixed, could certainly become spiritually blind - again, I remind you, we cannot be talking about losing salvation, that is NEVER the case. However, though we can never lose our salvation, we can sure mess up our communion with God and our opportunities to be useful to Him. The remedy is simple: confess your sin and return to obeying God’s Word and focusing on pleasing Him first and foremost. When we do, He clears up any blurriness and helps us see what is true, what is good, what is lovely, and what is praiseworthy. How’s YOUR vision today? Who is God laying on your heart to talk to about their vision?
October 21, 2016
“The Jewish leaders replied to him, “Surely we’re right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon, aren’t we?” Jesus answered, “I don’t have a demon. On the contrary, I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. I don’t seek my own glory. There is one who seeks it, and he is the Judge. Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Then the Jewish leaders told him, “Now we really know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets, but you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ You aren’t greater than our father Abraham, who died, are you? The prophets also died. Who are you making yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I were trying to glorify myself, my glory would mean nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You don’t know him, but I know him. If I were to say that I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jewish leaders asked him, “You are not even 50 years old, yet you have seen Abraham?” Jesus told them, “Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, before there was an Abraham, I AM!” At this, they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the Temple.”
This chapter is loaded with critical things that Jesus taught about Who He was and what His mission on earth was. We would do well to look it over carefully. Focusing on verses 48-59, though, we find that Jesus was not the least secretive about Who He was saying He was. The Jewish leaders fought Him every step of the way, accusing Him of blasphemy (how could GOD blaspheme? He couldn’t!), and a host of other ugly things. Jesus didn’t beat around the bush, He told them plainly, “I AM.” Clearly, they knew that Jesus was claiming to be GOD at that point, but their hardened hearts would not accept it, and they tried to stone Him to death. I cannot even begin to imagine what they had to deal with when their deaths occurred and they found out Who they were yelling at and trying to kill! One of the lessons Jesus was trying to get across to them was that He was not there to seek His own glory. His focus was on pleasing the Father by doing all that He wanted Him to do. However, He knew that God the Father glorified Him BECAUSE He always kept His word. Guess what? We can keep God’s Word too! We can please God and bring Him glory by obeying what we know He wants us to. And, astoundingly, one day God will honor US for faithful obedience to Him! What an amazing fact to cling to when our days are hard and relief isn’t in sight. We CAN obey God (HIS unlimited strength and wisdom helps us do this), We CAN please God by choosing to do His will over our own. We CAN bring Him glory by how we live, what we say, our attitudes—everything! Unlike the millions of people who will stand before God’s Judgment Throne in terror, despair, and doom, we can stand before the Bema rejoicing, because by God’s grace, we chose to live for God—like our Savior did. Whatever your past, TODAY is the day to live for God wholeheartedly and constantly.
October 20, 2016
“After this, Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, because he didn’t want to travel in Judea, since the Jewish leaders there were trying to kill him. Now the Jewish Festival of Tents was approaching. So his brothers told him, “You should leave this place and go to Judea, so that your disciples can see the actions that you’re doing, since no one acts in secret if he wants to be known publicly. If you’re going to do these things, you should reveal yourself to the world!” Not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus told them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its actions are evil. Go up to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival yet, because my time hasn’t fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.”
What does John 7 teach us about Jesus? Well, sadly, for one, Jesus’ brothers did not believe He was the Son of God. Imagine living with Him, sharing meals with Him, working alongside Him, but with a hardness of heart that led to not believing He was the Messiah. How they must have mourned over their stubbornness in later years when at least two of them (James and Jude) did trust in Him as their Savior. Lost opportunities for God are a heartache, that’s for sure. AND, this is a good reason to prayerfully begin each and every day God gives us with the goal of looking to serve God in exactly the way He wants us to. We may have missed opportunities in the past, but we can grasp them today! Another thing Jesus told His brothers, and many other people on different occasions, was that His time was not yet come. As we know, Jesus lived His life on God’s timetable. This necessitated doing some things in what may seem a funny order, not doing things that would seem the right thing for the occasion, and hundreds of other incidents where someone had an idea about how Jesus should be or not be, but He refused, because it wasn’t God’s will for Him to do at all, then, or in that place. In this instance, we find that Jesus DID go to the festival, just not on the day His brothers told Him to. Jesus’ timetable ALSO had a lot to do with differentiating this visit to earth from His second visit. As we know, the first visit was to die in our place, the second visit will be when He sets up His rule as THE King. ALL the Jewish people assumed anyone coming to them claiming to be the Messiah would also throw out the Roman government and set up his kingdom then and there. Most of them never really understood that their idea about how history should go and God’s eternal plan were two very different things. And, frankly, all these centuries later, we’re still not that good at it, either. We too often give God all sorts of hints and tips about when He should do what, how, and where. Perhaps we too aren’t really trusting God as GOD. Oh, we have trusted in Jesus as our Savior, but don’t we sometimes we struggle with trusting Him with every detail in our life and the lives of our loved ones? May we, unlike Jesus’ brothers in this account, ALWAYS trust God. BONUS: Jesus ALSO reminded His brothers (and us!) that those who are living for God WILL be hated by those who are not living for Him. This kind of thing is never fun, but it IS something we have in common with our Savior—and that’s pretty awesome.
October 19, 2016
“When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. Darkness had already fallen, and Jesus had not yet come to them. A strong wind was blowing, and the sea was getting rough. After they had rowed about 25 or 30 stadia, they saw Jesus walking on the sea toward their boat. They became terrified. But he told them, “It is I. Stop being afraid!” So they were glad to take him on board, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.” John 6 has a lot of important lessons and applications, but let’s focus today on just one. Verse 20 relates that Jesus told His terrified disciples, “It is I. Stop being afraid.” This event is also recorded in Matthew 14:22-33 (which includes the famous story of Peter walking on water), and Mark 6:45-52. These accounts tell us that the reason Jesus didn’t travel with His disciples across the Sea of Galilee was because He went someplace private so He could pray. There are several examples that show that Jesus treated prayer as an essential part of His life. Jesus (WHILE WALKING ON THE WATER, by the way), told His disciples, “It is I.” This is another way of saying, “I AM.” Jesus was clearly demonstrating His deity—and He was demonstrating to them that He is in control—even over the “normal” inability of water to hold someone up, and the wind that creates dangerous waves. For that reason, and a host of others seen throughout the gospels, they had no reason to be afraid. God is on the job. Nothing is impossible for Him (this event occurred not even twenty-four hours after Jesus fed thousands of people with five loaves and two fish). We’ve spoken before about reasonable fear and fear that shows a lack of trust in God, but let me remind you (and me) about those facts. Reasonable fear is a fear that God gives to humans (and animals) to protect us from harm. When we step off the sidewalk in front of Dunkin’ Donuts to cross to our car, only to find that the driver of a huge truck at the drive-up window is distracted and not actually looking where he is going, we feel fear, and we either jump back out of the way, or react in some way to remove ourselves from danger (this happens a lot by DD—watch out!). It is a good thing to sense imminent danger and to react quickly. However, the kind of fear that displeases God because it demonstrates that we don’t trust Him, might well occur 1,001 times in any given day. And, it usually revolves around “what ifs.” What if I can’t pay my rent? What if that spot on my leg is cancer? What if my husband dies? What if so-and-so leaves our church? What if… Like so many things, simply wondering about the answer to these kinds of questions isn’t sin in and of itself, it is what we do with it. If we turn to the great I AM in trust and reliance, we have honored Him, and we will find that special peace and joy He gives to those who rest in His loving care. If we fuss, fret, and fume, getting all worked up and upset, we are NOT trusting in God, and we are not pleasing Him. The Bible calls worry sin. THANKFULLY, we can confess our sin to Him every single time we are aware we have done it, and He is faithful and just and will forgive us—every single time. What a God we serve! When something unexpected happens in our day, simply remembering, “It is I, Stop being afraid,” is enough to make the winds and waves stop, and the calm assurance begin. I am SO THANKFUL that the great I AM is MY God, aren’t you?
BONUS! Here are some other passages where Jesus said to not be afraid: Luke 5:1-11, Mark 5:24-36, Matthew 14:22-33, Matthew 17:1-8, Luke 12:4-7, Matthew 28:1-10, Revelation 1:17-19. Note in each case that the identity of the One Who says to not be afraid is the key to defeating fear. It's not about our storms, it's about His might, love, and compassion.
October 18, 2016
“Jesus told them, “Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, the Son can do nothing on his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing, What the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing, and he will show him even greater actions than these, so that you may be amazed. Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to those he chooses. The Father judges no one, but has given all authority to judge to the Son, so that everyone may honor the Son as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”
John 5 contains a LOT of things that Jesus said about Himself. It’s well worth taking the time to read. For now, though, let’s focus on just a few verses (v.19-23). Even though Jesus never stopped being God while He was on earth, He lived within certain parameters that God the Father had set. He did this willingly and joyfully. In a general, all-around sense, Jesus mirrored what the Father did. As many of you know, I have two granddaughters, aged 2 and 1. They are both learning new things every single day, and one way they learn them is by watching their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We will often see them gesture in a funny way, then realize that they are copying something someone in the family does (or sometimes Winnie the Pooh!). Their words, actions, and funny faces give us all cause for a lot of laughing—and this is all good. Adults SHOULD live in such a way that an innocent child can copy their actions and words and not be learning anything unkind, ugly, or ungodly. Jesus does that for us. His attitudes (serving God, serving others), His words (giving glory and gratitude to God the Father), His habits (regular personal prayer time and regular synagogue visits), His focus (doing the will of the Father while disregarding His own agenda) - all these things are super important life lessons for you and me. Our number one goal as a Christian ought to be bringing honor and glory to God every moment of every day, and studying Jesus’ example is how we learn to do this. Who or what are you mirroring? What are others doing when they mirror YOU?
October 17, 2016
“So he (Jesus) came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the piece of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s Well was also there, and Jesus, tired out by the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus told her, “Please give me a drink,” since his disciples had gone off into town to buy food. The Samaritan woman asked him, “How can you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” Because Jews do not have anything to do with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Please give me a drink,’ you would have been the one to ask him, and he would have given you living water.” . . . The woman told him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet! . . . (Jesus said,) "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman told him, “I know that the Anointed One is coming, who is being called ‘the Messiah’. When that person comes, he will explain everything.” “I AM,” Jesus replied, “the one who is speaking to you.” . . . Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, have something to eat.” But he told them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” So the disciples began to say to one another, “No one has brought him anything to eat, have they?” Jesus told them, “My food is doing the will of the one who sent me and completing his work. . . So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of what he said. They kept telling the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, because now we have heard him ourselves, and we know that he really is the Savior of the world.”
Just as a reminder: the focus of our study this month is on what The Bible teaches us about Jesus. Here a few (amazing) things we learn about Him from John 4: -Jesus got tired, thirsty, and hungry. In fact, He endured all the same temptations that you and I face, although He never complained, lashed out at others in His frustration, or forgot to be thankful. In short, He never sinned. He relied on the Word of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit to do good and flee evil. We, too, have these all-powerful tools at our disposal any time night or day. -Jesus, Who created the entire world and everything in it, could certainly have made water appear out of thin air, but He chose to allow humans the joy of serving Him. Oh, how we need to remember that serving God is a huge privilege and blessing, never something that is a burden! -Jesus could not only create physical water, He is the Source of living water. He is the Source of spiritual life. May we never use His name in a "common" way or "get used to" Who He is and what He did, does, and will yet do! -Jesus was a Prophet. In fact, He was THE Prophet. You may recall that a "true prophet" was sent from God and had the job of declaring something God wanted them to declare. It might be about future events, but it was also often truths they needed to hear then and there. The people were obligated by God to obey God’s true messengers. Jesus’ message was that He was the Son of God, come to bring salvation to all who believed in Him. The Jews SHOULD have believed Jesus. Not doing so was sin. -Jesus is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the One promised all the way back in Genesis 3. -Jesus is “I AM,” Yahweh, Jehovah, God. -Jesus’ job was to do the will of the Father, completing the work that He sent Him to do. We, too, have certain jobs that God created for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). As we live faithfully for God day by day, these jobs will be evident—each one another opportunity to fill up our treasure chest in heaven. -The Samaritans recognized Jesus for Who He really was, the Savior of the world.
October 15, 3016
“Now there was a man from the Pharisees, a leader of the Jews, whose name was Nicodemus. He came to Jesus at night and told him, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher, because no one can perform these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” . . . (Jesus said:) “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him would have eternal life. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his uniquely existing Son so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life. Because God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world would be saved through him. . .
(John said) “He must become more important, but I must become less important.” The one who comes from above is superior to everything. The one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is superior to everything. He testifies about what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. The person who has accepted his testimony has acknowledged that God is truthful. The one whom God sent speaks the words of God, because God does not give the Spirit in limited measure to him. The Father loves the Son and has put everything in his hands.”
What did John 3 teach us about Jesus? -Jesus is a Teacher Who has come from God. What He is able to do proves that God is with Him. I wonder, does what we do in any given day “prove” that we are a daughter of the King and are relying on His wisdom and power? -Jesus came from heaven. Can you even IMAGINE leaving the glories of heaven IN ORDER TO DIE for sinful man? Jesus did that—for YOU. -Moses’ creation of the serpent on the pole (Numbers 21:4-9) was a picture of how Jesus would be placed on a tree to die, so that those who believed His death and resurrection would save them could have eternal life. Have YOU done that? Have your family and friends? -God loves THE WORLD! Prior to this, God’s love was focused on the descendents of Abraham. Aren’t you thankful God included us in His great plan of redemption? -The point of Jesus coming into the world wasn’t to condemn it (it was already condemned due to Adam and Eve’s sin!). He came to provide a way for salvation. He alone is the way to God. -Verse 30 is great! Jesus must always be becoming more important, and we must always be becoming less important (our goals, plans, wishes, and ideas fade in the beauty of GOD’S plans, wishes, and goals). -Jesus is superior to everything. If we kept this in the front of our mind at all times, it would change how we think and act. -Jesus is truthful, therefore we must be too. -Jesus speaks the words of God. What a wonderful goal for our words, both spoken and written! -Jesus had the Holy Spirit available to Him at all times. We do too. -Jesus is loved by the Father. We are too. -Jesus was given complete authority by the Father. When we live acknowledging God the Father as our Authority, all is right in our world.
October 14, 2016
“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. After this, Jesus went down to Capernaum—he, his mother, his brothers, and his disciples—and they remained there for a few days. 13 The Jewish Passover was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as moneychangers sitting at their tables. After making a whip out of cords, he drove all of them out of the Temple, including the sheep and the cattle. He scattered the coins of the moneychangers and knocked over their tables. Then he told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” . . . While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many people believed in him because they saw the signs that he was doing. Jesus, however, did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and didn’t need anyone to tell him what people were like, because he himself knew what was in every person.”
Things we learn about Jesus from this passage: -Jesus revealed His glory by turning water into grape juice (non-alcoholic “wine”). It was His first recorded miracle and resulted in His disciples believing that He was their Messiah. In other words, they got saved. One thing we can learn about Jesus from this event is that God is not limited by the “rules” of His own creation. Even though He set things up to generally work a certain way (gravity normally makes things fall down), this does not mean that God can’t do what He wants—including making rain full UP, and turning water into something else. THIS is the same God Who promised to help you become more like Him. Why wouldn't we trust Him to do it??? -Jesus had brothers. His adoptive father, Joseph, is never mentioned after the incident when Jesus was twelve, making scholars believe he probably died. (Later we learn that Jesus also had sisters.) -Jesus did not see the sinful things happening in the Temple courtyard and go into an out-of-control rage. Instead, He took the time to find the items He needed to make a whip, then He fashioned it Himself. THEN, He returned to the courtyard and drove those out who were not honoring God. By the way, it wasn’t wrong to sell animals for people to use to offer sacrifices, but the people in this account were taking advantage of those who travelled great distances to overcharge and cheat them. Jesus’ anger was righteous anger—anger at sin. It was controlled and had the goal of making a wrong right for God’s sake. Sin should anger us too! However, if we're honest, our anger is usually against someone or something that upset our carefully laid plans. We need to learn to only address the things that REALLY matter, and leave those other things in God’s capable hands. -Jesus knows what people are really like in their hearts, yet He STILL loves us and He STILL chose to die for us! Have you thanked God lately for His Son’s sacrifice? -What else did YOU learn about Jesus from this passage? Write it down!
October 13, 2016
“The Word became flesh and lived among us. We gazed on his glory, the kind of glory that belongs to the Father’s uniquely existing Son, who is full of grace and truth. John told the truth about him when he cried out, “This is the person about whom I said, ‘The one who comes after me ranks higher than me, because he existed before me.’” We have all received one gracious gift after another from his abundance, because while the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus the Messiah. No one has ever seen God. The uniquely existing God, who is close to the Father’s side, has revealed him.”
I’m sure you recognize this passage as being super-duper important in its theology. God’s Word, Who IS God, became ALSO a Human in order to live among His creation (same exact idea of God dwelling in the most holy place of the tabernacle and temple to commune with His specially chosen people, the Hebrews). God’s supreme faithfulness and love resulted in Him sending His Son to live with us as a Man (though He never stopped being God). Why? There are a host of reasons: primarily to pay the price our sin demanded, so that those Who God chose to believe could become His children and forever be with Him. In addition to this magnificent purpose, His incarnation was also so that Jesus could show us about what God is truly like. There are even three descriptors in this one short passage that tell us a bit about God: He is full of glory, grace, and truth (splendor, magnificence, excellence, majesty; loving-kindness, good will, favor; the state or character of being true; unfailing love and faithfulness). We’ve spoken more than once about the usefulness of creating notebooks to make lists of assorted things as we study God’s Word (like a list of what pleases God or displeases Him, what He tells us is His will, things we are supposed to be thanking God for, and so on), and this section has encouraged me to keep a record of what Jesus tells us God is like, and what He Himself is like (since He is also God). We could include what He teaches about the Holy Spirit, Who is also God. Doesn’t that sound fun and useful! Let’s get on it right now. John 1 has tons of things to add to our list! BONUS: John mentioned in verse 15 that Jesus ranks higher than Him. In Hebrew culture, older people were to be highly honored and respected, so since John was born before Jesus, he would have been thought of as ranking higher. However, since Jesus has always existed, He deserves the ultimate respect and honor. The concept of what John said would have been understood by those who heard him, but that doesn’t mean that they automatically accepted that Jesus was God and has eternally existed.
October 12, 2016
“This was the true light that enlightens every person by his coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him. Yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own creation, yet his own people did not receive him. However, to all who received him, those believing in his name, he gave authority to become God’s children, who were born, not merely in a genetic sense, nor from lust, nor from man’s desire, but from the will of God.”
-Jesus is the True Light. This infers that everything else is a false light and/or darkness. When we listen to something/someone over God, we are choosing to place ourselves in darkness. -Jesus enlightened every person by coming into the world. If He hadn’t come, we would all be unable to understand truth. -Jesus, God’s Son, God Himself, was not recognized as being God. By way of application, Jesus told people Who He was, but He didn’t shout angrily at them to treat Him the way He should have been treated. He allowed God to determine when and how He should be recognized and honored. As God’s children, we don’t need to beat people over the head to properly appreciate us, nor do we need to toot our own horn. Like Jesus, we should just humbly do our best for God, leaving to our Father the result of our labor. He will bestow honor and reward at just the right time—and what He does, He does perfectly and magnificently. -Jesus was not honored by the Jews as their Messiah. In fact, most rejected Him, ultimately plotting to have Him killed. We may judge them and condemn them, but doesn’t the Bible say that every time we make a decision to do what we want in defiance of what we know the Bible says, that we are turning our back on God too? That we are rejecting Him? -Jesus has the authority to bestow upon every person who believes in Him as their Savior the name of a child of God; a fellow heir along with Him! May this truth never grow commonplace in our hearts! -Those who have believed in Jesus as their Savior have done so because it was the will of God. It’s always all about God, never about us. Pretty huge facts and truths in these few verses, wouldn’t you say?
October 11, 2016
“In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. Through him all things were made, and apart from him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life brought light to humanity. And the light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.”
I hope you’ve read the Gospel of John enough times to fall in love with it. It is such an awesome Book! In fact, it jumps right in with several key truths about Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. -Jesus has always been. Like God the Father, He is eternal. -Jesus is the Word. This means that He is the divine communication, as well as the divine logic—what we might call the meaning of life. -Jesus is both with God and He IS God. This means He is in intimate fellowship with God the Father, and that He partakes of the same essence and nature. -Jesus is the One Who created the heavens and the earth, and all that is in our universe. In addition, Colossians tells us that it is Jesus Who continues to hold all things together. If He were to let go, everything would explode into nothingness. -Jesus is the author of life, spiritual life. The person that Jesus saves and makes whole is given a light that simply can never be put out. Even when our physical bodies return to dust, the real “me” lives on forever. Our salvation can never be taken away from us. Did you notice how John follows the pattern of Genesis a bit (“In the beginning, God. . .”)? John not only follows this pattern, but gives us more information about the role of Jesus Christ. I love the Book of John! It is so rich in detail about our Lord and Savior that we’re going to spend the rest of the month digging treasure after treasure out of it. Obviously, though, we can’t begin to comment on EVERYTHING, so it is my prayer that you will put in a bit of extra time this month to read the sections of John that we aren’t addressing. THIS is time very well spent! Getting to know your Bible better and better will help you now, and it will be beneficial throughout eternity.
October 10, 2016
“And the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
What can we learn about Jesus? -Jesus called Himself the Son of Man. This was His favorite way to refer to Himself and it speaks of both His Deity and His humanity. Before He became a human, He was, from all eternity, God. Because Jesus willingly followed God’s plan for our salvation, and took on human nature and a human body (without any sin in His nature), Jesus will also forever be 100% Man. He is pleased to have it this way—because of His love for you and me. -Jesus had a mission. He came to seek and save the lost. This has a few key sub points: 1) Jesus is the One Who came looking for us. He took the initiative. If it were up to us, we would NEVER have gone looking for Him. His great love is the theme of Scripture, and one worthy of continuous meditation and tremendous praise to God on our part. 2) Just as the word “salvation” does not always refer to salvation from our sins (the word means “rescue”), the word “lost” does not always refer to unbelievers. Jesus DID come to die for unbelievers, and He most definitely wants every single person to trust in Him for salvation, but 3) Jesus also came to seek and save those who are saved, but have wandered away from a right relationship to God. Some key passages that talk about this are Luke 15:4-7, the one lost sheep, Luke 15:8-10, the lost coin, and Luke 15:11-32, the prodigal son. In each of these stories, the lost thing had been in the possession of the owner, there fore, these lessons are for believers. God does not wish for even one of His children to wander away from His tender loving care. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. How can we EVER thank God enough for that!
October 8, 2016
“Then Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was being tempted by the Devil for 40 days. During that time he ate nothing at all, and when they were over he became hungry. The Devil told him, “Since you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One must not live on bread alone, but on every word of God.’” The Devil also took him to a high place and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in an instant. He told Jesus, “I will give you all this authority, along with their glory, because it has been given to me, and I give it to anyone I please. So if you will worship me, all this will be yours.” But Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” The Devil also took him into Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the Temple. He told Jesus, “Since you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, because it is written, ‘God will put his angels in charge of you to watch over you carefully. With their hands they will hold you up, so that you will never hit your foot against a rock.’” Jesus answered him, “It has been said, ‘You must not tempt the Lord your God.’” After the Devil had finished tempting Jesus in every possible way, he left him until another time. Then Jesus returned to Galilee by the power of the Spirit. Meanwhile, the news about him spread throughout the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was continuously receiving praise from everyone.”
Four brothers left home for college, and they became successful doctors and lawyers. One evening, they chatted after having dinner together. They discussed the 95th birthday gifts they were able to give their elderly mother who moved to Florida. The first said, "You know I had a big house built for Mama." The second said, "And I had a large theater built in the house." The third said, "And I had my Mercedes dealer deliver an SL600 to her. "The fourth said, "You know how Mama loved reading the Bible and you know she can't read anymore because she can't see very well. I met this preacher who told me about a parrot who could recite the entire Bible. It took ten preachers almost 8 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $50,000 a year for five years to the church, but it was worth it. Mama only has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot will recite it. "The other brothers were impressed. After the celebration Mama sent out her "Thank You" notes. She wrote: Milton , the house you built is so huge that I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Thanks anyway.” "Marvin, I am too old to travel. I stay home; I have my groceries delivered, so I never use the Mercedes. The thought was good. Thanks." "Michael, you gave me an expensive theater with Dolby sound and it can hold 50 people, but all of my friends are dead, I've lost my hearing, and I'm nearly blind. I'll never use it. Thank you for the gesture just the same." "Dearest Melvin, you were the only son to have the good sense to give a little thought to your gift. The chicken was delicious. Thank you so much." Love, Mama (author unknown) Forgive me for being a little unconventional for this application, but the joke seemed pertinent to this passage of Scripture. Why? Because the exceeding value of Scripture is the point of what Jesus taught in this event - and we don’t always recognize just how critical it is to everything we are and want to be as God’s children. We have been given a priceless treasure, but sometimes all we see is a bird to eat. Really, there were three take-aways from Jesus’ example: 1) Jesus always did God the Father’s will. He did not rely on His own strength or wisdom or preferences. 2) Jesus relied on the strength of the Holy Spirit to enable Him to do the right thing and withstand temptation. 3) Jesus quoted God’s Word as the final word on the subject, really the ONLY word on the subject. He didn’t need to say anything more than to repeat back what God had said. These are the three things that you and I have at our constant disposal as well. In fact, they are OUR all-powerful weapons to battle temptation and do the right thing too. Awesome! How much do you value your Bible? Do you recognize it for the incredible treasure it is?
October 7, 2016
“Every year Jesus’ parents would go to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to the festival as usual. When the days of the festival were over, they left for home. The young man Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. They thought that he was in their group of travelers. After traveling for a day, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching desperately for him. Three days later, they found him in the Temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and posing questions to them. All who heard him were amazed at his intelligence and his answers. When Jesus’ parents saw him, they were shocked. His mother asked him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been worried sick looking for you!” He asked them, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he told them. Then he went back with them, returning to Nazareth and remaining in submission to them. His mother continued to treasure all these things in her heart. Meanwhile, Jesus kept on growing wiser and more mature, and in favor with God and his fellow man.” There’s a lot about Jesus in this passage! -Jesus was raised in a family who obeyed God’s Law. It was required for all Jewish males to go to Jerusalem for the Passover every year (many men traveled with their whole family), so that’s what they did. (If you were raised in a Christian home, be sure to thank God—and be sure to thank your parents!) -Jesus could not sin, so staying behind could not have been disobedience to His parents. -His parents loved Him and took great care of Him. -For the Jews, twelve was on the brink of manhood, so Jesus was leaving childhood in this event. -Jesus had relatives and friends, enough that His parents didn’t notice He was missing. -His parents did not always understand Him. -Jesus listened to those who taught God’s Word and questioned them in a way that was apparently insightful and intelligent. He seemed to have excellent insight and understanding of God’s Word, therefore we can conclude that He was both taught well from the time He was very young, and that He studied God’s Word Himself. -Jesus HAD to be in His Father’s House. This indicates that at least at this time He understood that God was His Father, and that God the Father had a job for Him to do. -Jesus submitted Himself to His earthly parent’s authority. -Jesus grew as a normal boy would, but He also grew in favor with God and His fellow man as He aged. This is the only place in the Bible that tells us something about Jesus as a Child, but what an amazing passage it is! It gives us great examples to follow as well as direction in raising our own children. Basically, we ought to teach our children to see the necessity to be in God’s House and to be about HIS business—to love Him and serve Him. As we do this, we too can “grow” in favor with God, since trusting Him and obeying Him gives Him great pleasure. How does what you learned today impact your day—and life?
October 6, 2016
“Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.”
As a reminder, we are looking at what the Bible tells us about Jesus Christ. When we get into these very familiar passages (like for the entire month!), we will find a ton of things that gets our attention, to the point where we might be distracted—and rightly so. However, we’re going to TRY to focus on what we learn about Jesus, though we’ll also always seek to discover how God wants us to apply it to our daily habits and circumstances. What do we learn about Jesus from Luke 1? Jesus is GREAT, Jesus is the Son of the Most High, Jesus is the One God chose to sit on the throne of David, Jesus will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will never end. All this is extremely pertinent for the Jewish people, but you and I know that later in Jesus’ ministry, He began to give hints that God would ALSO bring some gentiles into His kingdom. No one at that time had even a tiny clue that once Jesus returned to the right hand of His Father in heaven, a new age would be ushered in—the church age—the age you and I are living in right now. Jesus is OUR King, too! We will have the delight and privilege to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords, and in fact, we can and should be doing that right now. Aren’t you just amazed at God’s incredible plan of redemption? When we look at our Bible as a whole, we can see His love from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. God designed us to fellowship with Him and be blessed by Him, and even when we rejected Him and chose to hate everything about Him, He STILL loved us and He carried out His plan to save us, restore us, and claim us as His beloved ones; members of His own household—daughters of the King! Our response? From waking to sleeping, choose to make honoring Him and obeying Him as the foundation of everything we think, say, and do, thanking Him in word and action for sending His own Son to be Immanuel, our Redeemer, and our Master.
October 5, 2016
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Watch! The virgin is conceiving a child, and will give birth to a son, and his name will be called Immanuel.”
This is another prophetic passage that is extremely important to us AND was also pertinent to King Ahaz, the recipient of the warnings and promises of God in Isaiah 7. I’ve warned you before that a scholar I am NOT, but sometimes God will graciously help me to see a HUGE truth in a simple, basic kind of way. If you want an incredibly detailed, uber awesome explanation of this passage (and the rest of Isaiah), please contact one of the Pastors Brown. However, for now, you are stuck with me. Here’s a simple take on this verse (and chapter): God wants to provide help and direction to His children in our lives today, but whether or not we listen and obey Him, He will STILL be faithful, and He will STILL fulfill all of His promises. One such promise was that God Himself would dwell among us. This is a passage of Scripture that was fulfilled in the New Testament with Jesus’ birth—and it is one that will be fulfilled in the most grand, outstanding, hard-to-grasp, permanent way at the end of the Millennium, and the beginning of the ages of the ages. All three Persons of the Godhead will dwell with us upon the creation of the new heavens and new earth. “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah happened in this way. When his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, before they lived together she was discovered to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to disgrace her, decided to divorce her secretly. After he had thought about it, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” he said, “don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he is the one who will save his people from their sins.” Now all this happened to fulfill what was declared by the Lord through the prophet when he said, “See, a virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” When Joseph got up from his sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary as his wife. He did not have marital relations with her until she had given birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and the sea was gone. I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See, the tent of God is among humans! He will make his home with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There won’t be death anymore. There won’t be any grief, crying, or pain, because the first things have disappeared.” Revelation 21:1-4 What did we learn about Jesus today? He is God’s gift to us. He is Immanuel, God WITH us. He came to earth as a Baby to fulfill God’s will and plan. He will return to remove all traces of sin forevermore, and will take up residence WITH US. Forever. Our response? Gratitude! Prayers of thanksgiving! A decision to trust God in not only these incredible future events, but in the nitty-gritty of TODAY. A sense of tremendous anticipation while watching the skies for Jesus’ return. A calm assurance that God IS in control, has always been in control, and will always be in control.
October 4, 2016
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed and to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a mantle of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Did you know that the books of prophecy are often talking about current events (current in relation to their lives, not ours!), but then suddenly switch to future events with no warning (some of which happened after they were written about, while many STILL haven’t happened)? Did you know that they are also often talking about someone who is living at that time period AND something or someone yet to come? I fully confess that I find these books to be quite a challenge, but I’ve also come to realize that they contain some pretty amazing treasures. Isaiah 61, for example, is pretty cool. Did you remember that Jesus quoted part of it in one of His first synagogue visits once He began His ministry? In fact, it was in His own hometown, and because the people knew that the Book Jesus was reading from (Isaiah) was referring to the long-awaited Messiah, they rejected Jesus, thinking in their limited brains that Jesus couldn’t possibly be the One Who God would send to redeem them. Oh, how wrong they were! They literally told God to His face to go away! Here’s Luke 4:16-21, “Then Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been raised. As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. When he stood up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has anointed me to tell the good news to the poor. He has sent me to announce release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set oppressed people free, and to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. While the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him, he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled, as you’ve heard it read aloud.” If you compare what Jesus quoted from Isaiah with the prophecy, you’ll notice that Jesus stopped part way through. He stopped before He said, “The day of vengeance of our God…”. This is because that day hadn’t come yet. In fact, it STILL hasn’t come. The day of vengeance is referring to the end of the Tribulation, which ushers in the Millennium where Jesus sets up His earthly kingdom. Jesus’ first coming, what is recorded in the four gospels, is about Jesus’ coming to earth in order to take the punishment that our sin demanded: death. His second coming will be to establish His righteous rule. Isaiah 61 (and Luke 4) tell us some pretty astounding things about Jesus, though, in reference to His first coming. He said that He operated by the power of the Holy Spirit (we do, too!), He was chosen by God to tell the “good news” of how God was going to fulfill His promise to make a way for us to be reconciled to Him, something that was shattered when sin entered the world (we get to tell others the “good news,” the gospel, too!), He said that His coming would release prisoners (imprisoned by sin), restore vision (spiritual eyesight), set the oppressed people free, and announce the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus DID heal thousands of their physical problems, but more importantly, He made a way for us to be free from sin and all its horrible imprisonment and blindness. Simple faith in Him brings everyone from darkness into His marvelous light. BONUS! Did you notice how it was Jesus’ HABIT to be in the synagogue every Sabbath? How do you think that should affect the importance of church attendance to us? BONUS #2! One other thing we should know about Jesus from this passage (and many others), is that He fulfilled every single Scripture prophecy made about Him. God is 100% trustworthy!
October 3, 2016
“He was despised and rejected by others, and a man of sorrows, intimately familiar with suffering; and like one from whom people hide their faces; and we despised him and did not value him. “Surely he has borne our sufferings and carried our sorrows; yet we considered him stricken, and struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, and he was crushed for our iniquities, and the punishment that made us whole was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, each of us, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he didn’t open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, as a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
We are looking at a very small selection of verses and passages from the Bible that tell us a bit about Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Godhead, the One Who lives to do the Father’s will, and the One Who suffered in unspeakable ways FOR US. Even though we’re focusing on facts, information, and truths about Jesus this month, I just don’t see HOW we can read Isaiah 53 and not see the multiple personal references in this passage: “we,” “our,” “us”. . . It was for US that Jesus left heaven’s glories and the perfect oneness with the Father to come to earth, forevermore in the body of a man, only to be disregarded, despised, rejected, and become intimately familiar with suffering! If ANYONE had even the tiniest question in their mind about just how awful our sin nature is, we have but to look at our reaction to Jesus’ complete surrender to His slaughter in our place. He didn’t have to do any of it, but He did, and our response was to turn away from Him, sneering at Him in disgust. Wow. God the Son suffered untold agony for YOU - and He did it willingly. He did it because His love for you is everlasting. THIS is what we need to remember when we “feel” that we are unloved, abandoned, or not cared about. Nothing could be further from the truth. We might not have valued Jesus in our sinful hearts, but He always values us! How are these earth-shattering truths going to impact YOUR day TODAY? How are you going to thank Him? How are you going to value Him? Who are you going to tell about what Jesus did for THEM?
October 1, 2016
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the growth of his government and peace there will be no end. He will rule over his kingdom, sitting on the throne of David, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of the Heavenly Armies will accomplish this.”
Do you ever get discouraged thinking about how long it’s been since Jesus ascended into the clouds, promising to return for us soon? Do you ever wonder just how many more years (or centuries) will have to pass before the church age is fulfilled and done? I was thinking that very thing when reading Isaiah’s prophecy of King Jesus this morning. He actually wrote about this hundreds of years before it was fulfilled in a tiny, helpless Baby born on a dark night in the village of Bethlehem, too tiny to be considered of any importance whatsoever. This made me think of Adam and Eve and the day they sinned, bringing all of mankind under condemnation with them. When God promised to one day send a Redeemer to “fix” their awful, awful problem, how they must have yearned for it to happen the next day, or maybe the day after! Yet, even though they lived several hundred years, they didn’t live to see it happen. In fact, it was hundreds of additional years before Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, and another several hundred before Jesus came. BUT HE DID COME. He came and He DID pay the price that God’s wrath demanded with His very own life blood. All this should help us to bear up under the hardships of this lifetime with a whole lot more patience and joy, BECAUSE God always, always, always keeps His Word. At just the right time Jesus WILL rapture all those who have trusted in Him as their Savior from the time of His resurrection from death until the day of His return to the clouds, and He WILL return to earth a mere seven years later to set up His earthly kingdom in Jerusalem—and oh what a kingdom it will be! His rule will be unlike anything anyone has EVER known! He is the Wonderful Counselor! The Mighty God! The Everlasting Father! The Prince of Peace! His rule will be one of perfect justice and righteousness. It will be one of peace. AND, fellow daughter of the King, WE WILL BE THERE! And since we will have our glorified bodies, we’ll be able to rule and reign with Him—for all of eternity. I KNOW how hard life can be in the here and now, how hard it can be to not give in to sorrow and despair, BUT wonderful things are just around the corner—literally ANY SECOND. Keep on keeping on. Excel still more. Shine as lights of God into the darkness. King Jesus’ kingdom is one day closer. (The focus of our study this month is what the Bible (God) has to say about Jesus Christ. This is a follow up to our brief study in September about what God had to say about Himself. Are you excited? You should be! Learning about our Savior and Redeemer is one of our greatest blessings!)