Category Archives: John

Figuring things out

“So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’”  John 20:2.

“Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside.  He saw and believed.”  John 20:8.

Mary Magdalene and John both see the same thing; an empty tomb.

Their reactions to it couldn’t have been much more different.

Mary assumes that the Jesus’ body was stolen by someone.

John understands that Jesus is no longer dead and probably wonders where He now is.

My takeaway is the need to be careful with the conclusions I draw from what I see/hear.

I think that I have a sense of the Sherlock Holmes in me.  I like to take pieces and make them into a completed puzzle.  Sometimes I don’t have enough pieces in place and conclude mistakenly. I need God’s help.

John had spent nearly three years with Jesus.  He knew, based on what he had heard and seen, that Jesus had power over death.  If he had been asked prior to this event if Jesus could be raised from the dead Himself, John would have had no evidence to go on.  But he knew that Jesus had done remarkable things.  At the end of the Gospel of John, he says that he had only told a small portion of what he had seen Jesus do.  So when John saw the organized pattern of the linen, he did not assume that the body had been unwrapped and then stolen.  He concluded that Jesus had come back to life.

I need to keep taking close looks at Scripture.  I must continue to personalize it (“What do You want me to see?”) as I read it.  The more enlightened I get, the better I will be able to understand things as they come along.

Jesus appeared to Mary outside the tomb and her confusion ended.  She, too, now knew that He had left the tomb and was alive.

What an event!  The Jesus I follow is alive.  I’m not following the teachings of someone who is no longer with us, but instead a living Person.  He is indeed unlimited.  He has opened my eyes to Who He is ….. my Savior!

Conclusion: My understanding of His Ways increases as my trust in Him increases. 

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What evil looked like two thousand years ago

“The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.  They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’  And they slapped him in the face.”  John 19:2-3.

When I read this passage today, I realized that it was Roman soldiers doing this to Jesus.

There were no orders given to do it.  They just took it on themselves.

Pilate is an evil co-conspirator.  He tells the crowd that Jesus hasn’t done anything wrong but then has Jesus flogged.  How’s that for justice!  Flogging, by any definition, was no slap on the wrist. Some folks died from it.

The Jewish leaders are also in on this evil.  They wanted to kill Jesus, but it was against Old Testament law. They wanted the Romans to do it for them.  It was okay if they had others do it for them.  Whatever you need to tell yourselves!

I read this section and was overwhelmed by the layers of evil in place.  These folks didn’t just sound evil, they carried it out.

I realized, as I meditated on these verses, that evil has not left.  Satan hasn’t gotten old and passed on.  He’s in it until God tosses him into the Lake of Fire.  I need to be aware of his presence.

Believers in the US isolate themselves, most of the time, from evil.  Do we really think that if we turn off the news the evil happenings vanish?  We are not immune from it and it may get close to us.

I remember telling a group of middle schoolers in a suburban town that we were thinking of having them spend a week living in Boston (MA) and going to the Boston public schools.  I was just looking for a reaction and quickly got a “Not interested,” response.  It’s fear of what might happen.

Another look at these verses and the background to them and I noticed that the opposition to Jesus had lost all sense of hearing His side.  As with Stephen in Acts, the opposition to Jesus, in their own ways had their hands over their ears and were yelling as he spoke.

There is a significant push for apologetics these days.  I’m interested but many in our culture are “closed doors” to reasoning.  Try to picture one of the disciples reasoning with those yelling to crucify Jesus.  Maybe the guards could be persuaded to consider Jesus as someone to follow.  You’re kidding!  If I am going to share what I believe, I am absolutely certain that I must be directly led by God in doing it.  I need His timing.  I need His Words.

The folks involved with Jesus were going to do what Satan had told them to do.  They were also going to fulfill Scripture in the process.

I believe that God can turn evil into good.  I believe that we can get caught in the effects of the evils of others, BUT God is with us there.  He can rescue us or take us through it with Him.  We’re covered either way.

I must never forget that evil is in a world which includes where I am this second.

I need to remember that Satan hates God and will do what he can to discourage me from loving God.

I believe that Satan has in place zealots for his ways who are very determined and powerful.  They are out to get believers.  Sometimes they get the leaders (Bill Hybels) and other times it is those in the seats.

Recognizing/Resisting is an ongoing struggle.  I must be “armed and dangerous” in defending my love for God.  Peter abandoned Jesus entirely in the courtyard because he imagined the consequences being a follower would bring and forgot that God would have been with him in those consequences.

Conclusion: The forces of evil are present, and I must live in that awareness and react in ways that rightly represent God.

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I’m a mess away from God

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5.

Amen, to that!

I am going through a rough stretch that I brought on myself.

When I get apart from God, I don’t always realize it.  Having the company of Godly people often let’s my ungodliness pass unnoticed.

The trouble starts when someone else does notice and calls me on it.  Often, instead of realizing that I’m serving up ungodliness, I just compound it by taking someone else into ungodliness with me.  That’s what has been going on for part of today.

It’s wrong.  I know it’s wrong.

I have been using Marilyn Hontz,’ “Listening for God,” as a guide to reading Scripture.  She advocates reading along in a passage until it speaks directly to you.  Today was John 15 for me.

I didn’t get far until I came across a correction I needed – “apart from me…”

When I am apart from God, I am deadwood.  I am useless and worthless to God.  He can’t use me.

I miss out on so much.  Instead of growing in Him I’m loosening my attachment to Him.  He can’t be pleased!

My morning thoughts to seek Him must be lived out.  Some of these days, I suspect that I could have a prayer and praise service in my room and still make a mess of things an hour later!  And I live in a friendly environment!

I must simplify my relationship to God.  I am either with Him or against Him.  Satan takes over where God leaves off.  I can’t let go of God.

Based on today’s troubles, I must filter every word/deed through Him.  Maybe talking less and initiating less would help?

There are many tugs at me to do this or that.  When I most fast from one thought/deed to another I lose touch with God at times.  Unfortunately, in my setting I can slide away without creating waves.  Someone else, frustrated by my behavior, should be alerting me to being apart from Him.  Today, I heard no alert and off the deep end I went.

I need to be very conscious of God’s presence.  He’s in this room I’m writing in.  He’s in the room when I’m getting called out.  He hears my reaction.  He sees me living out the end of John 15:5 – apart from me you can do nothing.

Conclusion: Nothing good happens when I am apart from God.

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Questioning God

“After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:5.

“No, said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” John 13:8.

What an unnerving pattern it has been.

For three straight days of reading there have been instances where God’s Way is rejected.

Jeremiah said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord.”  Then it was the disciples with, “But Rabbi.”  Today we get, “No, said Peter.”

Questioning God’s plan.  What could be wrong with that!  Plenty.

If I am following Him, then what comes along is what I need to have come along.

I continue to want the perfect life.  Everything in its place and working on my time.  Real life just isn’t like that.  God wants me to trust Him in ALL the details of my life.

My wife took a fold-out window out today to wash it.  She couldn’t get it back in.  I couldn’t get it back in.  Things did not go well between us as we tried to get the window back in where it belonged.

I look back at the incident with embarrassment.  Things didn’t go the way I wanted so I went negative.  That’s why the reactions of Jeremiah, the disciples, and Peter hit me where I needed hitting.

God knows what is best.  Things that happen can be faced in a Godly manner or in a godless manner.  I joined the others by reacting as if God didn’t know what He was doing.

To finish the window story.  We were having a large tree taken down in our yard at the same time we struggled with the window.  My neighbor, who has more skills than the legal limit (!), was going to be getting some of the wood so he was outdoors watching.  After my wife and I realized that we wouldn’t be able to get the window back in right, we went outside to watch the tree cutting.  My wife mentioned to our neighbor our trouble with the window.  He was familiar with the workings of those windows, came over, and quickly had the window back where it needed to be.  I told my wife that God is merciful (we didn’t break the window) and gracious (we had a handy neighbor nearby) and that we are totally unworthy of having a relationship with such an awesome God.

I need to start each day fully attached to Him.  I cannot venture out without Him in charge of every word and deed to come.  When I recall my unworthiness and His great love to me I am overwhelmed.  “What did I do to deserve this?”

Conclusion: My reactions to things reveals the depth of my trust in God’s Wisdom.

 

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“That’s not a good idea.”

“’But Rabbi,’ they said, ‘a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?’  Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.  It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.’”  John 11:8-10.

Yesterday, it was Jeremiah saying, “Alas, Sovereign Lord.”  Today, it’s the disciples saying, “But Rabbi.”

Different collection of words but the same foundation in both responses: “Are You sure that You are doing the right thing?”

It’s about questioning the Will of God.

I am so wrapped up in my own intelligence that I elevate myself to a partnership with God.  “We’ll sit around the table and decide what’s best.”  What am I thinking!

Jesus uses verses 9-10 to explain that when you don’t follow Him, you’re likely to get into difficulty.

God knows what He’s doing.  That is the bottom line that I must never forget.

David, in Psalms, questioned God and Job certainly did.  But they realized, upon reflection, that God knew best and they were His followers not His partners.

If I really believed that God is Who He says He is, how would I live my life?  (1) There must be less of me in the decision-making process.  (2) There must be less of my thoughts when things don’t go as I expect them to go.

There’s a saying in these parts: “In Bill we trust.”  The “Bill” is Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots.  His ways are not always understandable but the wins by that team keep happening.  Questioning his every move fails to realize that the coach knows what he’s doing.  Relax and enjoy the results!

In God I must fully trust.  He knows what is best.  He knows what He’s doing.  My task is to continually seek His Will.  To bloom where I’m planted and take refuge in Him.

Conclusion: Questioning God reveals my spiritual weakness.  God knows best.  Stay in His Light.

 

 

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Went, Washed, and Saw

“’Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam.’ So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” John 9:7.

What a story!

The man in the story had been blind since he was born.  Jesus “happens” to come where he is.

I am sure that the man was used to people being around, but this time he hears his status being discussed by people nearby.  The apparent leader of them informs the others that his blindness did not result from sins committed by him or his family.

That’s sort of a relief but his blindness hasn’t changed.

Then things get strange.  He hears the leader of the group spit on the ground and the next thing he knows is that he has had some mud put on his eyes.

Before he can wipe the mud off, he’s told to wash it off in a “nearby” pool.  It doesn’t take much of an imagination to think that the blind man would have been quite bothered by what had just happened.  There isn’t even any mention that doing what he’s told will give him vision.

BUT, instead of throwing a fit, he goes off and does exactly as he was told.  The result?  He came home seeing!

In mediating on the story and this verse there are so many things to be said.

When difficult things come into my life I cannot assume that I have done something wrong.  Blindness was a difficult thing, but Jesus clearly states that it wasn’t punishment.  However, if I am doing something that I know is sin, bad things can happen for that reason.  God sets the time and place for such punishment.

Jesus says that He was going to be glorified by this man’s blindness.  He can be glorified in how I handle adversity too.

I love the role model behavior where the blind man did exactly what Jesus told him to do.  Remember Naaman, the Syrian leader?  Told to wash in the Jordan River to get rid of his leprosy, he gets all huffy puffy and doesn’t want to do it.  But the blind man?  He’s all in on what Jesus says to do.  And he ends up with his sight.

Doing what God wants me to do means to get everything, small and large, done as He wants.  I am unique.  What I face, others don’t face.  It is easy, therefore, to act as if God is not in the details of what I’m going through and so I can make up my own behavioral standards.  Not so!  He is the God of all my seasons.

I can trust God when I can’t see what He has in mind.  The blind man didn’t know who Jesus was, yet he followed His instructions.  Amazing faith!  I know who Jesus is.  He is my Savior.  I must trust Him even when I can’t see where that trust will lead me.  At some point, now or after-life, I will understand how glorious His plan was.  Until then?  Keep trusting.

Conclusions: God uses circumstances to get His Will done.  I must obey Him even when I don’t know where that obedience will lead me.

 

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How Can I Know What He Wants Me to Do?

“Therefore, Jesus told them, ‘My time is not yet here; for you any time will do.”  John 7:6.

Jesus was going to do what God wanted Him to do and He knew what that would involve.

His earthly brothers, the “them” in today’s verse, did not.

I am not Jesus.  I do not know fully what God wants me to do.  This deficiency increases my need to actively seek His Will.  I cannot be lax in that seeking for fear of the consequences.

How often have I chosen to do something and then, later, asked Him to bless me!  Every time, I think about my doing that, I am ashamed by my foolishness.  God is not mocked.

How does God direct me?  The Bible is one way.  The Bible is a “living” document.  Its contents are relative to me NOW.  I can’t pass it off as out-of-date or irrelevant.  This is where Marilyn Hontz’, “Listening for God,” has recently been a big help.

Today’s verse relates to timing which I need to get straight.  Therefore, there’s something for me today.

I can learn His Will by listening to Godly preaching.  God gives people insights and I am blessed and helped when they share them with me.

His Will can come clear to me via circumstances.  Moved to a new place for three months has affected my life significantly.  Where will I go to church?  How will I interact with new neighbors?  Changing circumstances require a new seeking of His Will.

In today’s verse, we see individuals trying to shape what someone should do.  In some cases, the advice of others can be God-directed.  In others, such as in today’s verse, the advice must be ignored.  We can see that the brothers were mocking Jesus.  They weren’t comfortable with Him.  They knew that He wouldn’t come with them so even the request was a joke.  Applying today’s verse to myself means that I must bring before God the advice I get.

Sometimes God’s Will for me is in the heart of someone else.  How strongly would I listen to someone if I knew that they could give me God’s Will for a situation?  Consider how fast I would run from faulty advice.

Information comes to me from so many different sources, so how will I know what/whom to believe?  The need to be with Him unceasingly is imperative.

Conclusion: If I want to know His Will I must be in an ongoing relationship with Him. 

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How to Represent God

“Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.  It was about noon.  When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’” John 4:6-7.

When I’m tired, I want to be left alone.  I’m not looking for any interaction, just some peace and quiet.

And Jesus was tired.  The only time I ever read that Jesus rode somewhere was on His Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem.  Otherwise, he was walking.

When I am tired, the only conversation I am likely to get into would have to be started by someone else.  Jesus was different. He may have been tired, but He initiated the conversation with the Samaritan woman.  He could have ignored her, and she probably would have ignored Him, but Jesus chose otherwise.

The first insight for me is that I CANNOT allow my physical condition to keep me from representing Him.  My day cannot be segmented into times when I will represent Him and other times when I’ll lower my Godly profile.  That’s too “normal” ……and ungodly.

Another insight for me is the way Jesus approached the woman.  Note that He didn’t delve into the differences between Himself (a Jew) and her (a Samaritan).  He also didn’t jump into social quicksand by asking her why she was at the well at noon instead of when the other women would be there.

Instead, He asked a non-threatening question.  The beauty of his approach was that it led to some changed lives in her family and in her village.

Sean McDowell (apologist writer) encourages those who want to represent God to start interactions with questions.  Non-threatening questions.  Those questions can lead to answers that can lead to witnessing opportunities. I am going to guess that Sean learned this technique from John 4!

I was at a baseball game today and I had a nice interaction with a photographer.  He told me that he had flunked out of college and now had finally finished his schooling at a second college.  He didn’t know what job he was going to have but his parents were okay with him living at home.  Pretty heavy stuff from someone I had never met before!  Non-threatening questions stimulated a lengthy conversation.

Jesus modeled both behaviors found in today’s two verses.  He didn’t let his physical condition stop Him from interacting with others and He used a question to get the interaction started.  Food for thought for me on both counts.

Conclusion: I must always be ready to represent Him.  I must use questions to stimulate interactions.

 

 

 

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What Do I Say About Myself?

“Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us.  What do you say about yourself?’”  John 1:22.

John the Baptist was eccentric.  His attire, his speech, and his hangout spot were all away from the norm.

But people were drawn to him.  Why?  He spoke with passion about the Messiah coming and told his listeners of their need to repent of their sins.

John called out folks (“You hypocrites!”) as he delivered a consistent message.

Those in the verse above realized that John wasn’t just another eccentric individual.  His lifestyle and his talk about the Messiah made them curious about his background.  “Who are you,” they wondered.  “Tell us about yourself.”

When I read the verse above, I started to think about the, “What-do-you-say-about-yourself?” question that John was asked.

What am I all about?  Why is that something people don’t ask me?

Is it that my life isn’t cut-and-dried for Him?  Is my love of God not obvious?

That’s four questions in a row!

My life must be lived entirely for Him.  How would my current lifestyle have to change if I went that route?

I won’t go into my attire because most of it comes from thrift shops and yard sales!  It already has some John the Baptist qualities to it!

My speech would need a serious makeover.  When John spoke, he was speaking the words God told him to speak.  I have written frequently about my words.  So often I wish I could grasp them in mid-air before they reach the eardrums of those listening.

God, via the Bible, has given me plenty of “word” possibilities.  I am, therefore, not lacking words.  Instead, I’m lacking Godly selectivity in their use.  The words of my mouth MUST please Him.

Location is another area for me to consider.  John moved to a place where there wasn’t a lot of distraction. Too often I put myself in places where the glimmer of God’s presence is hardly noticeable.  I go into dark places without “charging my batteries” so that I can be light in a dark place.  I stumble in and stumble around like everyone else.

“What do I say about myself?”  I want to say that I am fully committed to God.  That I am willing to do and say what He prefers.

Conclusion: Will I honestly say that God has His Way in every part of my life?  If it isn’t so, what am I doing about it?

“Consider the lilies of the field………….”

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What’s the purpose of the Bible?

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  John 20:30-31.

Verses chosen from today’s Bible reading; John 19-21.

The purpose of the Bible is to acquaint the reader with Jesus and to encourage the reader to believe that Jesus took care of his/her sin problem.

Paul described the core of his messages as; explanations of who Jesus is and of what Jesus has done.

Yet so many misunderstand.  Why?  Jesus is too complex.  He is the One with children nearby as well as the One overturning tables in the Temple.

Many respect Him as a teacher but are offended by some of His teachings.  He doesn’t have a good word for everyone.  He calls people names.

Misunderstanding who Jesus is would be one thing but missing the importance of His death and resurrection has after-life relevance.   We are sinners destined, as a result, for an after-life apart from God.  However, God offered a solution: He would end our sin problem.  And He did, as Jesus died in our places for our sins.

Our “believing” part is to believe that Jesus did die for our heaven-separating sins.  Sounds simple but so many stumble over the simplicity and opt to believe that some other way will work instead.

They make me think of Naaman.  The leper leader was offered a simple cure for his leprosy by Elisha.  Naaman was insulted by such a simple cure.  And many in our day would rather try to “heavy lift” their way to an after-life with God.

“Lord, thank You for Your Word.  Thank You for “moving into the neighborhood.” Thank You for solving my sin problem.  I am in the clear on Judgment Day thanks to You.  I love You, Father.”

The Bible is a wonderful guide.

 

 

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