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Monday, August 31, 2009

John 7-8

John 7: This entire chapter highlights the different responses to Jesus. His own brothers did not believe in him. They actually encouraged Jesus to go to Jerusalem for the Feast, hoping he would be killed by the Jewish leaders. Could you imagine your own siblings wanting to see you get killed! Of course, many of the Jewish leaders didn’t believe in him either. They misunderstood and falsely accused Jesus over and over again. Instead of being inspired by Jesus’ insightful teaching, they would nit-pick. Instead of praising God for the miracles Jesus did, they would get upset about when he did it- if he did it on the Sabbath day. While many did not believe Jesus, there were some who did “put their faith in him.”

Today, I am going to put my faith in Jesus. I mean, I’m not just going to say I believe in him; I’m actually going to intentionally act upon those beliefs. So, for example, if I really believe Jesus when he says he is “the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) then I will act on this by doing my part to, with “gentleness and respect,” embody and proclaim the good news of Christ to others. If I really believe Jesus when he says that if we want to be forgiven by God we must be willing to forgive others, then I will do what it takes to really forgive those who hurt me. Today, I want to be counted among those who don’t just say they believe but who live as if they believe!

John 8: The verse that hit me like a ton of bricks in this chapter was v. 29. Jesus says “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Jesus suggests that the presence of God is with us in a pronounced way when we live our lives simply to please him. In one sense, God is not far from any one of us. But if we’re not doing what pleases him, we grieve him and distance ourselves from his presence. The reason why Jesus had the consistently intimate relationship with God that so many of us want is because he was moment by moment obedient to the Father. What he said, what he did, what he thought flowed out of his deep desire to please God. And because of this, the power of God was unleashed in Jesus’ life in spectacular ways.

I’m reading a book that I’ve read a few times called The Sacrament of the Present Moment. It’s an old classic book, written in the 1700s. The author’s main point is that sainthood is achieved quite simply by submitting obediently to God moment by moment in the small and big things of life. Think about it. What if all followers of Christ lived with this commitment? Think of how the world would be different if nothing else mattered (peoples’ opinions, our desires) but doing what pleases God. Imagine how simple our lives would be if there was only one consideration behind everything we did- what can I do to please God? Today, I am going to be conscious of pleasing God in every word I say, every action I commit, every thought I think, and every decision I make.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

John 6

First, thanks for sharing your reflections on your reading through John’s Gospel. I have been inspired by your depth of insight and thoughtful questions. Keep them coming. If you haven’t jumped in yet, please do so by posting on your own comments for each day’s reading.

This chapter is so full of rich and inspirational meaning. The consistent theme throughout John 6 of Jesus being the bread of life, manna from heaven, could very well be our focal point. It would take much discussion for us to list all the ways that Jesus is the bread of life who satisfies us deeply. But the verse that really hit me is 6:21.

The disciples were traveling across a like and a storm was brewing, causing the water to get rocky. They were frightened, especially when they saw Jesus walking on the water toward them (that might freak me out too). But in 6:21 is says, “then they were willing to take Jesus into the boat” and then the “boat reached the shore where they were heading.” We all go through stormy times, but the questions that hit me are: Am I quick enough to take Jesus into the boat of my storm and how can I take Jesus into the boat of my storm?

To be honest, there are times when a storm hits and I proceed to get through it in my own strength and in my own ways. Inevitably, this only compounds the storminess of the storm. But when I take Jesus in the boat, things change immediately. This doesn’t mean the storm goes away immediately, yet things change immediately. I invite Jesus into the boat when I run to him in prayer, refusing to alienate him in my storm because I think he alienated me. We invite Jesus into the boat of our storm when we maintain intimate connection with him through prayer, scripture, worship and service. This resolution to keep our eyes on the Christ who walks on water may not change the ferociousness of the storm, but it will change us immediately.

Thanks be to God!

Friday, August 28, 2009

John 5

Before you read this post, please breathe a short prayer for me, that God would use me this evening as I preach at a leadership conference in Jamaica Queens, NY. Thanks.

Based on today’s reading, what areas of my life do I need to put into Christ’s hands because I trust him?
In vv. 41-44 Jesus says that he doesn’t need to defend himself or prove his identity or promote his ministry; he claims that God the Father does that for him. Jesus reveals his strength of character in this statement. How many people do we know, whether inside or outside of the church, who refuse to self-promote in order to let God defend, promote, and vindicate them. I am challenged by this. Sometimes I want to yell out to the people around me, to my spouse, kids, friends and church family, “look at all the good I’m doing…don’t you realize how lucky you are to have someone like me.” I am going to trust God to defend and promote me when and how he wills. After all, as Jesus suggests, self-promotion destroys our testimony in the eyes of God and in the eyes of people with true spiritual wisdom and discernment.

Based on today’s reading, how can I lovingly submit to Christ by obeying his commands?
It’s so easy to think that knowing is the same as doing. In vv. 39-40 Jesus gets on the Jewish leaders for thinking that by merely knowing Scripture they have life. Jesus says that the true power of Scripture is when it leads people not to simply no more but to move closer to Christ. According to Jesus, the intent of Scripture, is not to show off our intelligence in theological debates but to move us closer and closer to Christ, the giver of life. I don’t want this 21 day devotional journey in John’s Gospel to deteriorate into theological jargon or information acquisition; I want to translate not into more information but more transformation. As I continue this journey, I’m going to look for ways that each day’s reading will propel me deeper into Christ. If it doesn’t, I’m reading for the wrong reasons.

Love and prayers,


Thursday, August 27, 2009

John 4

Based on today’s reading, what areas of my life do I need to put into Christ’s hands because I trust him?
In verses 16-20 we find one of humanity’s most unhealthy tendencies. Jesus tries to get beyond the surface issues to the real core issue that was adversely affecting this woman. Her struggle was that she was “looking for love in all the wrong places.” As soon as Jesus began to go to the root of her disappointment with life, she tried to cover up her pain with religious debate about worship. It seems to me that we humans often use religion, of all things, to pridefully hide our true selves from God, others and, most of all, ourselves. Today, I will trust God by refusing to use religion as a “fig leaf” through which to hide my deepest needs and struggles from Him.

Based on today’s reading, how can I lovingly submit to Christ by obeying his commands?
I am inspired by the commentary John gives about the man with the sick son. Once Jesus promised the man that his sick son would be well it say “the man took Jesus at his word” (v.50b). I am challenged by this. Yes, I do believe in Jesus and more often than not take him at his word. But, to be honest, there are times when I’m experiencing anxiety or fear. Usually these emotions flow out of my unwillingness to take God at his word. I suspect that every fear, anxiety, or worry we experience is attributable to our unwillingness to take God at his word. Try to up the level of your trust in God’s word, the bible, by obeying what you know he is calling you to do. This is what God is challenging me to do through this verse.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

John 3

Based on today’s reading, what areas of my life do I need to put into Christ’s hands because I trust him?
Verses 19-21 encourage us to come out of the darkness of our hiding places and into the light of Christ’s love. This is what saves us from the condemnation we have brought on ourselves. Living in the light of Christ means living with honesty and authenticity. It’s so easy to hide our true selves, not only from each other but from God as well. It seems that religious people like Nicodemus can sometimes be the best at hiding our true selves from the God we claim to worship. Today, I’m going to trust God by refusing to hide even my darker side from him. He sees it all anyway. If I can live an “honest to God” sort of life because I trust the light of his love, then perhaps I can live a completely honest and open life before others as well. God wants to help us overcome the false self and bring out the true self in each one of us.

Based on today’s reading, how can I lovingly submit to Christ by obeying his commands?
John the Baptist’s perspective is so refreshing (see vv. 22-35). John had a pretty significant ministry going. People were coming to hear him preach and get baptized by him. Many were wanting to be his disciples. It would be easy for John to get puffed up and become egotistical, arrogant, and proud. But, remarkably enough, he doesn’t. When Jesus comes on the scene, people begin to leave John and go to Jesus. Jesus becomes more popular it seems and John’s ministry begins to fade out a bit. Yet, in the face of this, John says about Jesus, “he must become greater; I must become less” (v. 30). God, through John the Baptist’s example, is calling me to have the heart of John so that my main concern is not my ministry but the ministry of Jesus through me and through others. I will obey God by making sure the in my heart, my life, my home, my ministry…Jesus is becoming more prominent than me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

John 2

Based on today’s reading, what areas of my life do I need to put into Christ’s hands because I trust him?
In verses 1-11 we find Jesus willing to be interrupted to serve someone in need. He can provide what we need, sometimes saving the best for last, which requires extreme patience on our part. The thing that sticks out most in these verses is Mary’s confident trust in Jesus when she says to the servants “do whatever he tells you” (v.5). It was as if she believed that Jesus could do anything, solve any problem, fix what is broken. Mary is a great illustration of trust. Today I will be quick to put my trust him and encourage others to do the same by telling them “do whatever Christ tells you.” As I counsel people in need today, I want to hold up Jesus as trustworthy just like Mary did. I want to trust that Jesus can make a difference in my life and in the lives of others.

Based on today’s reading, how can I lovingly submit to Christ by obeying his commands?
In verses 12-17 the place of worship became a means through which the religious leaders could abuse and oppress people instead of serving and helping them. The people of God should not be self-serving; yet many churches struggle with the temptation to use people instead of serving people. The religious leaders were marking up the prices on Temple animal sacrifices and charging extremely high exchange rates, making it more and more difficult for people, especially the poor, to connect with God through worship. While we don’t do that at SWC, I do sense that God is challenging me to guard us from putting needless obstacles in a person’s path to God.

Another challenge for me comes in v.25. We love affirmation from people, but Jesus made sure that his number one source of affirmation was from the Father. People can be fickle but God is consistent. We should be seeking to please him and get our ultimate kudos from Him. If we don’t, we will find that pleasing others becomes more important to us than pleasing God.

Monday, August 24, 2009

John 1

Based on today’s reading, what areas of my life do I need to put into Christ’s hands because I trust him?
The first five verses of this chapter remind me just how powerful Christ is and how worthy he is of my absolute trust. Sometimes I think I can do more for me than Christ can. But the truth is I can’t. I am limited; he is not. I am often powerless; he is not. While he may have come to us as a First Century Jewish man, he is the eternal “Word” of God who made everything there is (v.3), including me, who distributes true life that makes life worth living (v.4), and who overcomes the dark forces of the world with his light (v.5). I can trust him. Today, I need to trust that he will use me to touch the lives of people through my preaching ministry. In addition to preaching weekly at SWC, which is both a joy and a sobering responsibility, I have been invited to preach God’s word at three major events outside of SWC- one this week and two in the Fall. I sensed a bit of fear and anxiety welling up inside me, wondering how I would find the time to prepare for these extra speaking engagements. Then I realized that the God who gave me these opportunities will, no doubt, help me in the development and delivery of these messages as long as I stay yielded to and focused on him.

Based on today’s reading, how can I lovingly submit to Christ by obeying his commands?
John the Baptist says in v.7 that he “came as a witness to testify concerning the light (Jesus) so that through him all might believe.” Every single follower of Christ is also called to be a “witness,” to show and tell the world that Jesus Christ is the ultimate giver of life and light. As a witness John pointed others to Jesus, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (v.29)” and then again the next day, "Look, the Lamb of God! (v.36). This entire chapter is about pointing people to Christ. John is writing his gospel to point people to Christ. John the Baptist was quick to point people to Christ. A bit later in the chapter, Andrew points his brother, Peter, to Christ (v.41) and Phillip points Nathaneal to Christ (v.45). I sense God really challenging me today to make the most of every opportunity to point people to Christ through my actions, words, and prayers. Jesus calls me to be his witness (Acts 1:8) and today I will lovingly submit to him by seeking and taking opportunities to point people to him, the giver of life and light!