June 30 - A Relationship

Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 30 – A Relationship

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:20-25)

Whatever it was the Peter was worried about or that Jesus had planned for the disciple Jesus loved (whom everyone assumes to be John), there is a real message for us in this final passage. 

Sometimes it is just none of our business. 

We are so concerned with God’s relationship with everyone else, we forget to consider our own relationship with Him.

I have called quite a few churches home in my life and never have I been in a church that isn’t filled with busy-bodies nosing their way into the lives of church members, pastor’s families and any number of things – rarely to be helpful, always to push their ideas, complaints and selfish intentions on to others.

I’d like to have believed that it was always the older women (ok, and men) of the church who didn’t have anything else to do.  I’ve justified their behavior by attributing concern for the activities of the church or maybe the fact they were very active in younger days and don’t know how to let go or … the list can go on and on.  The truth of the matter is that they easily stick their nose in where it doesn’t belong simply because they are curious and nosy.

Jesus stopped that behavior immediately with Peter.  It was absolutely none of his business what the relationship between Jesus and John was and would be.  There was no justifying Peter’s behavior by acknowledging that Jesus had created such a close relationship or that Jesus had promised to build His church on the foundation, or that Jesus had given Him the keys to the kingdom. 

No – none of that mattered.  The relationship between Jesus and John was theirs and theirs alone.

The relationship between you and Jesus is simply that – between the two of you.  This book was written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that by believing you might have life!  Don’t waste your time worrying about anyone else – their sins, screw-ups, lack of faith, good things or bad things.  Grab the life that is offered to you in Jesus Christ.

June 29 – Do You Love Me?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 29 – Do You Love Me?

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15-19)

The beauty of symmetry is astonishing sometimes.

When Jesus asks Simon Peter if he loves Him, the first two times, Jesus uses the word, “agape” which is a willful choice to love.  Simon, do you choose to love me?

But, Peter’s response comes back to Him, Yes Lord, you know that I love you “phileo” which is an emotions-based love.

Agape love is a love that since it is a choice offers images of loyalty and devotion.  Philos love is based in human emotions, is represented by the kiss and is also associated with the idea of being accustomed to someone.

Jesus was asking Peter if he would make the choice to love Him.  Peter responded that of course he was accustomed to loving Jesus.  He’d been with Him for three years, they were brothers, and they’d been through a lot together.  Peter had even pulled a sword out to protect Jesus.  How much more could he offer in proof of his love.

Jesus wanted Peter to make the choice now to love Him.  He’d denied Jesus in public, would he be able to stand up and announce his love for the Lord?

Finally Jesus recognized that they weren’t going to get anywhere with the conversation.  Peter, do you love me with your heart?  Peter was hurt by the constant questioning, but yes … He loved Jesus with all his heart.

June 28 - 153?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 28 – 153?

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.  It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14)

Have you ever wondered why the number of fish counted is so specific in this Gospel?  There are any number of theories out there.  I just read one that asked you to sum the cube of the digits and you will get 153.  It’s all about the number three.

Another interprets the number as the generations of humanity in existence.  76 before Christ, 76 following Him before He returns. (That’s kind of entertaining to consider.)

There are considerations that He ministered to 153 people in the Gospel of John, but John kind of discounts that in the previous verses when He mentioned that Jesus performed many other signs – probably some of them were ministry to other people.

More than likely the number simply tells us that John was an eyewitness.  And you know those fishermen, they want to know exact details about everything.  The size, weight and the exact number that they brought in.  John was there.  He experienced the miracle and he is telling us about it. 

One other small point made about this passage comes from the fire on the beach.  This was a fire made from coal – not driftwood or anything else.  That’s an interesting detail as well.  The last time we saw a fire made from coal, it was just inside the high priest’s courtyard and Peter was warming his hands over it just as he denied Jesus. 

Peter’s all-consuming, unadulterated joy at seeing Jesus again is shown in his response as he pulled off his outer clothing and jumped into the lake to race the boat to shore.  His redemption is at hand. 

June 27 – So Much More

June 27 – So Much More

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)

This is one of my favorite verses in John.  There was so much more happening that we don’t know about.  That only makes sense, but John puts it out there so that everyone is fully aware he couldn’t possibly get all of the information into one book.

It really gets your imagination flowing, though!  If Jesus did all of these amazing things – what were some of the other wild signs that He performed?  Think of the quiet moments that He would have spent with the twelve disciples, the stories they told back and forth, the experiences they had with Him and with each other.

And the next question is – if He did perform other signs in front of the disciples – how did they not understand who He was and the impact of His ministry?

These stories were told to us, though so that we might believe.  Nothing else needed to be said. 

June 26 - Belief or Cynicism

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26 – Belief or Cynicism

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)

I wanted to be the girl who had a spaceship show up in her backyard and ask if she wanted a ride.  But, I also knew that there wouldn’t be very many people who believed it had happened.  The only ones who might believe would be those who knew me well enough to know that I didn’t make stuff like that up.

We have been tricked and fooled so often in our lives that it is difficult to believe those who tell us something absolutely fantastic.  In fact, the fantastic and extraordinary doesn’t happen too often at all any more, does it?  There is always a mundane explanation for anything that occurs.

Thomas was just that cynical. He was even more cynical than me.  If the people that I had spent the better part of two years with told me something amazing, I would probably believe them … or at least give them the benefit of the doubt. If I had also spent those two years watching Jesus perform incredible miracles, I would probably believe that He could return from the dead.  But, Thomas wasn’t prepared to believe.  He needed proof.

Today we are that cynical.  What will it take to give our faith more than lip service – to live our lives as if Jesus really did something as over the top as the Resurrection?  To live in peace and joy rather than fear and misery?  To treat the world around us in love and grace rather than anger and mistrust?

Will we have to see Him and place our hands in the wounds?

June 25 - Peace

Saturday, June 25, 2011

June 25 – Peace

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:19-23)

Notice what is happening in the first sentence of this passage.  The disciples are behind locked doors because they are afraid of the Jewish leaders.  When Jesus stands among them, He offers peace.

How would they ever spread the Good News of His resurrection if they remained behind locked doors?  How would they have the courage to leave Jerusalem if they were afraid?  How would they become the foundation of His church?

We lock ourselves behind the doors of our churches because we are afraid to move out into the world and tell people about Jesus.  We package His message up all neat and tidy and then wait for the world to show up.  If they’re lucky, we’ll let them become part of the small, core group of the church society we’ve created.  If they know how to play the game of fear like we do, they’ll be invited in.  But, if they’re troublemakers or challenge our fears, we are just as happy to see them go.  We close the doors tightly and wait for the next courageous soul to enter.

We’re afraid of the world.  We’re afraid that someone might ask questions we don’t have a ready answer for, we’re afraid that there are those out there who might recognize us for who we truly are, we’re afraid to tell the world what it really means to know Jesus, because they will expect us to live that way.

Jesus brings the one thing that wipes all of that fear away.  Peace.  A peace like we’ve never known. 

That peace gives us the courage to move beyond the doors of our church, into the world and among people who don’t know how perfect we are inside that church.  Jesus sends us into the world to tell His story – but first, He brings us peace to allay our fears.

June 24 - He Knows Our Name

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 24 – He Knows Our Name

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18)

When I was a child, if Mom was really angry with me or wanted my immediate attention, she used my entire name.  “Diane Elizabeth Greenwood …” and I knew that things were serious.  On the other side of that coin were the days she wasn’t sure who it was she needed to yell for and we would have to wait as she progressed through the litany of all our names, as well as any animal living in the house.  “Diane, Carol, Jamie, Charcoal, OD!”  Then she would stop and center on which of us might be in trouble and call us out by name.

The moment that Jesus said her name, Mary recognized Him for who He was – the resurrected Lord.

Jesus tells us in John 10:3, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

He knows our name and when He calls us by that name, we can’t help but respond.

June 23 - It's a Race!

June 23 – It’s a Race!

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 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!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. (John 20:1-10)

It was a race!  For some reason the idea of these two burly men racing each other up and down the hilly, poorly stated paths makes me chuckle.  And it was a race because scriptures tell us plainly that one arrived first.  It would have been pretty easy to just state that they arrived and did their thing, but one arrived first while the other came in a few moments later and was able to enter the tomb first.

I love information and I will admit to great enjoyment when I can deliver new information to people.  There is not much more fun for me than telling friends something they don’t know and watching their face as they take it all in.  I especially love telling them great news and watching their reactions to that.

Mary was worried.  It had yet to occur to her that something amazing had happened.  She was terrified that something awful had occurred.  Simon Peter and the other disciple knew her well enough to recognize she wasn’t exaggerating and took off to see for themselves. 

They had to see for themselves before they could believe.  They didn’t understand that Jesus would rise from the dead because they knew the Scripture, but because they saw for themselves.

The race is on!  The world needs to see to believe.  Peter and the other disciple saw the empty grave cloths lying there.  People will see our changed lives and the empty grave cloths of our old selves.  They want to know that what Jesus says is true and the only way to do so is to see transformation in our lives. 

June 22 - Expectations

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 22 – Expectations

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-42)

The world never makes it easy for us to be ourselves.  From the moment we begin interacting with it, there are expectations that are set before us and sometimes it is just easier to live up to those expectations rather than be something different.

At the age of 5, my father put me on a piano bench.  I took piano lessons every week of every year and I knew that he expected me to be a concert pianist.  He had no other desire for my life but that.  I practiced and practiced so that I could meet his expectations.  I did well … exceptionally well, but my heart was never there.  The most difficult day of my high school life was the day I had to tell him that I just couldn’t do it.  I was miserable because of his expectations.  I didn’t enjoy playing because of those expectations.  His hopes and desires for my life weren’t at all what I wanted for my life. 

(Please don’t misunderstand – I’m thankful for the background in piano – and grateful for the discipline that he taught me.)

Up until that day, I had hidden my true self from him because I didn’t want to disappoint him, I didn’t want to argue with him about it.  He was the law in our home and I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than what he expected of me.

Nicodemus and Joseph lived as Jews within their community.  Jews who lived up to the expectations of their positions.  Their hearts were no longer in it – they wanted to follow Jesus, but they had to operate in secret because of the laws of the land and the traditions in which they had grown up.  This day they set that aside. Something greater than their secret needed them to come out into the open with their own heart’s desires. 

What, in your life are you doing about other people’s expectations?  Do you live up to them because you must or because it is where you should be?

June 21 - His Testimony is True

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June 21 – His Testimony is True

A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (John 19:28-37)

My father was a great story teller.  He could get away with tall tales and no one would know the difference.  When I was a kid, it frustrated me to no end that he could trick me into believing the wildest things that came out of his mouth.  Then, one day, I saw his tell … there was just a little glint in his eyes when he began to tell a tale.  I began to pay attention and after a lot of years, I was able to discern the difference between a retelling of an actual event or a grand story that he was making up as he went along.

If he wanted to let me in on the telling, he’d give me a wink and I’d know not to betray him … the result would be a lot of fun.

Not only was Dad a great teller of fictional stories, but in his retelling of true stories, you were drawn in and waited with bated breath for highlights.  We grew up knowing the stories of our childhood because Mom and Dad told them to us over and over.  We knew many of the fun stories of their childhoods and the years they knew each other before we came along.  These became an ingrained part of our histories and you will hear the three of us kids telling the same stories along with stories of experiences in our lives.

The stories that we heard from Mom and Dad are told with a different confidence than the stories we tell of our own lives.  Those things that we experienced are told with more detail and emotion because of our direct interaction with the moment.

John relates the story of Jesus’ death and the actions and events surrounding it and tells us in these verses that he was a part of all that happened.  It was John who got Peter into the high priest’s courtyard and watched as he denied Jesus.  It was John who saw the soldiers put Jesus on the cross and then cast lots for his clothing.  It was John who promised to care for Mary, Jesus’ mother.  It was John who heard Jesus speak His last words.

His testimony is true.  He tells us this story so that we will believe.

June 20 - Truth=Love

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 20 – Truth = Love

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”  So this is what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:16-27)

The high priest and his court wanted to water down the truth.  The sign couldn’t read that Jesus was the King of the Jews, but that He claimed to be King of the Jews.

We still do this today.  We are afraid of offending people around us, so we are careful about stating that Jesus is the only way to the Father – even those words came straight from His mouth.

It isn’t just about churches and religious institutions becoming weak and useless in the world – it’s also each one of us.  The Jews were more than willing to call down judgment on anyone who crossed their path, but they had forgotten what their true purpose as children of God was.

We are glad to pass judgment.  We think that the truth of Jesus Christ is to call for purity and sinlessness in everyone around us. So, when I say we water down the truth – that’s the first thing you might think about – we have made it too easy for people to live in the world without calling them to a life of righteousness.  Right?  Wrong!

Jesus calls people to lives of righteousness.  Our purpose is to love them so they see Jesus. Remember the great commandment?  Jesus didn’t tell us to change the people around us and make them righteous – He commanded us to love God and love others.  This is the truth that we can not water down. 

The Jews were to bring God’s love to the world.  They forgot.  Pilate didn’t even realize what He was saying in that sign – but the words went out in many languages.  The King of the Jews was dying on the cross for everyone.  Love … pure and unadulterated love.  Israel’s King had finally brought love to the world.

The Jews wanted to water that message down.  We forget its importance and water it down in translation with our concern for everyone’s righteous souls.

Truth = Love.

June 19 - The Crowd

June 19 – The Crowd

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 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.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. (John 19:1-15)

It continues to baffle me how the crowd’s passions changed in just a few short days.  They were ready to crown Jesus as king when He arrived in Jerusalem and it didn’t take long to hear their voices raised against Him.

We’re a fickle lot, we are.  It doesn’t take much to change our minds.  First we create a celebrity and with a moment, we can chastise them and ridicule them.  Even within the Christian community.  If someone steps over the line, we are more than happy to tear them apart and toss them to the lions.

Jesus wasn’t about to rely on the whims of humanity.  Pilate told Him that he had the power over life or death.  Jesus knew that wasn’t true.  God has that power.

Jesus didn’t rely on the crowd to support Him.  He knew that they were fickle.  Even those who were closest to Him and knew Him better than anyone else were long gone and hiding … in fear of their own lives. 

There’s a lesson in this for us.  We can’t rely on the crowd to offer us our lives.  We can’t give them that power – whether it is a crowd of anonymous people or those who know us well.  There is only One that can define our future and our destiny.  That is the same power that Jesus relied on – the power of the Creator. 

Our future, our definition, our lives, everything about us is found in the Father.  We look for it in the crowd.  The crowd tries to tell us that it is paying attention and will give us everything we need.  We’ll never find it there.  We can only find it in God.

June 18 - Truth

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 18 – Truth

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising. (John 18:38-40)

So, what is truth?  Wow, that’s the age-old question.  Is truth immutable?  Is there only one truth?  Is truth different for you and me?

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”  (John 14:6).  He had tried to explain this to Pilate – but Pilate couldn’t understand His words.

Truth is more than words, more than an idea, more than actions.  It is all of those things.

For us to live by Jesus’ example, we live by the truth that He brings to the world.  There is one truth and it is found in Jesus Christ. 

June 17 - Truth and Jesus

June 17 – Truth and Jesus

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:38-27)

Pilate and Jesus had a very interesting conversation here.  If Jesus claimed to be a king, Pilate was well within his rights to execute Jesus so as to protect the Emperor’s reign. 

Jesus doesn’t make any of this easy on Pilate, though.  When asked if He was king of the Jews, Jesus asks if someone had been setting Pilate up.  When Pilate asked what He had done … He claims to rule over the kingdom of another world.  When asked again if He is a king, He responds that He came to testify to the truth. 

I am never comfortable with evasive answers, though they are certainly fun to use as responses.  Pilate wasn’t terribly happy with these answers either.

Pilate wasn’t a stupid man.  He didn’t have a very powerful position, but He got there on His own and He was smart enough to recognize that he was in a no-win situation.  The Jews weren’t allowed to execute anyone – they were still under the laws of Rome and only Rome could take someone’s life.  Jesus had a large following and Pilate saw that this could rip apart the peaceful setting that he was enjoying. 

Jesus offered Pilate the same thing that He offers all of us – an opportunity to be transformed.  Notice the last line of this passage.  He brings truth and anyone who is on the side of truth will listen to Him.

Pilate is given one of two options: Jesus, which equals truth or not believing Jesus and accepting a false life.  Too bad we already know the end of the story.

June 16 - Just Like Us

Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 16 – Just Like Us

Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (John 18:25-27)

John’s writing style is fascinating.  He keeps the action moving.  We watch as Peter is confronted with his weakness in the middle of growing excitement as Jesus is confronted by His accusers.

Peter stands at a fire – warming himself.  If you look back at 18:18, we read that it was cold and there were several servants and officials standing around this fire.  We aren’t sure whether John is still there or not – the story doesn’t say.

But, news travels fast, doesn’t it!  A relative of Malchus recognized the man that had cut his ear off.  Peter tried to deny all of it, even in the face of a witness. 

It is difficult for us to accept Peter’s behavior.  We want to judge him harshly.  It is unimaginable to us that someone who was that close to the Messiah could possibly have such a weak will and would be so ready to walk away.

The great heroes of our faith are those that stood up for the name of Jesus in the face of great persecution.  The glorious martyrs of the faith set the bar high for us – we should be willing to sacrifice everything for Jesus. 

That is absolutely the pinnacle of servanthood and something we should pray to emulate.

But often our reality is more like Peter at this point in his life rather than when he faced death and was crucified for Christ. 

The stories of those who followed Jesus are stories of real people with real fears and real failures – much like us.  They were broken and hurting, timid and frightened – much like us. 

The gift that we have been given in Peter’s story is one of forgiveness, understanding and love.  This is what we receive from God as well and what we are called to offer to the world.

June 15 - Fighting the System

June 15 – Fighting the System

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. (John 18:19-24)

The world makes it easy to believe that we have to apologize for our faith or keep Jesus a big secret.  We allow concerns over Christmas programs in schools, Ten Commandments in courthouses, prayer in public places to overwhelm the most basic part of our faith – telling others about Jesus.  We spend more time worrying and arguing over those issues than we do simply being loving Christians and living the truth within our lives.

Jesus lived in a time when the Romans barely tolerated the Jews and the Jews themselves were completely intolerant of anything that didn’t line up to their rules and regulations within the faith.  Every time He tried to do something or say something, there was someone close by ready to stone Him or argue with Him, ridicule Him or bring Him up on charges.

He didn’t waste His time during His ministry messing around with those people … He simply continued to tell the truth and to tell people about how to have a relationship with God.

He took more abuse throughout His few short years of ministry than we can even imagine, but He didn’t stop.

Rather than fighting the system, He ignored it and continued to tell people about the love of God.

It seems like the best way to live, doesn’t it?

June 14 - Betrayal

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 14 – Betrayal

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.”

It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself. (John 18:15-18)

Read this passage again.  The ‘other disciple’ has always been assumed to be John.  Do you notice that he was probably standing there when Peter denied being a disciple of Jesus?  John had made an effort to get Peter into the high priest’s courtyard so they would be able to watch what was happening to Jesus.  Maybe he thought they might be able to do something about it.

Can you imagine the shock that went through his system when Peter denied having a relationship with Jesus?  It would have been all over his face and Peter would have seen that look of shock.

The thing of it is – though there was shock, there was no condemnation coming from John’s mouth.  He didn’t hit Peter on the arm and force him to admit that he knew Jesus, he didn’t call him names or berate him for his actions.  None of that happened.  John said nothing to betray his friend’s fear.

Jesus had already prepared them for this moment of betrayal.  And while John was probably quite shocked that it actually happened, he knew that the man they were certain was the Messiah was aware of it before it occurred.

We’re awfully quick these days to condemn someone for a sin.  We like calling them out and bringing their lives into the open so that we can ridicule them, gossip about them and act shocked by their behavior.

The world around us is not a safe place – and with that knowledge, repentance and renewal don’t come easy.  We know that Jesus pulls Peter back into the fold.  Would it have been possible if John had made a scene that night in the high priest’s courtyard?

June 13 - Who Chooses the Sacrifice?

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 13 – Who Chooses the Sacrifice?

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people. (John 18:10-14)

The offense on the part of Caiaphas and Annas was that they decided some one person should die for the good of the people.

They made a decision to sacrifice one person for the good of the many.  That didn’t turn out so well for them.

I love science fiction and I really love Star Trek.  One of the most emotional moments in Star Trek movie history for me was at the end of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.  As Spock died, he said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.”  It was, however, Spock’s choice to die so that the others could be saved.  Captain Kirk didn’t force him to die so that the rest could be saved – in fact, Kirk begged him not to do it.

Conscripting young men (and now young women) to go to battle for a country is a completely different thing than filling an army with volunteers.  Individual choice to sacrifice for freedom of country has always been more noble than marching into battle because you are forced to do so by an overlord or government.

The end game was the same whether it was Caiaphas and Annas choosing that Jesus should die or Jesus making the choice Himself.  One was seen as an evil act and the other as a sacrifice that would transform the world.

Caiaphas and Annas wanted to execute a man so that they could stay in power.  Their motives were self-centered and ultimately evil.

Jesus chose to face their trial and execution so that the entire world would be saved. 

Jesus chose.

June 12 - Who Is It That You Want?

June 12 – Who Is It That You Want?

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”  “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (John 18:1-9)

Who is it that you want?

Who is it that you want?

We all have our own idea of who Jesus should be in the world, don’t we?

Some of us would like a vending machine Jesus … we pop in the right amount of money (or prayers or service … whatever it might be) and out comes the desires of our heart.  But, that isn’t how Jesus works.  It really doesn’t matter what we do or do not do, He can’t be bribed or bullied. 

Some of us want to see Jesus punish all the sinners out there – bringing justice to the world.  We recognize them all and could easily come up with the proper punishment for them.  In fact, we’ve probably punished most of them already.  The great thing to see would be His punishment for their sins.  The only problem is, justice is handed out equally and our definition of sin might not line up with God’s, so punishment in our lives might be pretty awful.

Some of us would like to see Jesus take care of all the world’s problems.  End hunger and poverty, end the wars and please protect us from nature’s havoc.  Sickness and death would be gone, as would enmity among humanity.  That’s a nice thought, but before you think that is the Jesus you want to see show up tonight, please be prepared for the end of the world.

Along with the Jews of His time, many of us would like to see a kingly ruler, come to reign … Again … end of the world stuff and until God is ready, it’s not happening.

We all have ideas of who Jesus should be.  The worst part of that is we also share our own interpretations of who we desire Jesus to be with the world, treating those around us as we believe Jesus should be treating them.

Jesus didn’t come to help us create our own world, He came to transform the world into His desire.  This world is filled with sacrifice, humility, gentleness, kindness, self-control, love, joy, peace, patience and faithfulness.  It might look nothing like our vision of the world – well, maybe we’d like to live in a world where everyone else practiced those things – but, it isn’t who we are.

Who is it that you want? 

June 11 - Unity

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 11 – Unity

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:20-26)

The focus throughout this last year in seminary has centered around the Trinity.  In each of my classes it has seemed to draw the attention of the professors and it has been discussed over and over.  One idea that continued to rise to the top in various discussions with the intimate relationship of the Trinity and how that translates to our relationships … perfect submission, perfect love.

Jesus says in this passage that He wants those who have come to be Him to be one – as He is one with the Father.  A perfectly unified relationship.  With that relationship, the world will recognize the hand of God on His children.

That was supposed to be how it worked with the Israelites, but it didn’t end up being quite that healthy.  That was supposed to be how it worked for the early church, but within a short period of time, individual ideas, plans and agendas broke that unity into factions.

It doesn’t seem like an easy thing to do if those that God blessed throughout history were able to hold on to it.  But, that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.  It probably means it will take a little more work.

June 10 - Gifts

Friday, June 10, 2011

June 10 – Gifts

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17:13-19)

These verses really tell us of the compassion Jesus had for His disciples.

Sometimes I fill my measuring cups to the brim and a little bit leaks over the side.  Can you imagine a full measure of the joy of Jesus within you?  Think of the lives you could impact with that.  Think of the fun your own life could be.  He spoke out loud to God in front of them so they could experience that full measure of joy.  There wasn’t any skimmed off the top so that the measure was scant or perfect – it was absolutely full.

He gave them God’s word.  He prayed for protection from the evil one.  He prayed that they would know the truth and be made holy. 

Truly sanctified … truly holy … truly whole.  Joy.  Protection.

These are some of the extraordinary gifts that Jesus offered to His disciples.  These gifts are offered to us as His disciples.  Grab hold! 

June 9 - Friends

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 9 – Friends

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. (John 17:6-12)

With Jesus words as He prays regarding the disciples, we see their extraordinary growth and transformation.  This is no longer a ragtag group of men wandering aimlessly and blindly behind a great teacher, but a unified group of men who finally understand who their leader is and where He has come from.

Jesus is certain that they know He came from God and that God sent Him.  With this being said, He asks God to protect them when He leaves. 

I spent a few moments putting together a list of the twelve people that I consider to be close friends – people who have walked through a lot with me, learned with me, experienced life with me. 

As I considered these people, I realized that there were some who were closer to me than others – like Peter, James and John were closer to Jesus.  Each, though, has a unique relationship with me. None are exactly the same. It took a while for some of them to know me well enough to move past my weaknesses, others accepted me for who I was immediately.  Each took time to build our relationship.

This process helped me look a little more deeply at the relationship Jesus had with His friends.  He cared for them and prayed for them.  The greatest gift He could give them was the life they had because He pointed them to the Father.

This is a beautiful model for friendship.  Pray for your friends and point them to the Father. 

June 8 - Eternity

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 8 – Eternity

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

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

What is eternal life?  This is eternal life: that we know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

Eternal life begins now … not when we die, not when we make the transition between earth and heaven; but now.

I love reading paranormal novels in which one of the main characters will live forever (unless they’re murdered).  His (or her) love interest in then transformed so they can live together throughout eternity.

Ray Kurzweil is an incredibly brilliant man – an inventor of many things, one of which is an electronic keyboard that sampled and imitated multitudes of instruments and sounds.  In the last few years, he has put his mind to extending the life of humans.  He wants to live forever.  He believes he can find the fountain of youth through science. 

Eternity begins now. 

We struggle to do everything possible to maintain this physical life here on earth. Skin creams, dye jobs, exercise programs, botox, pills, machines that breathe for us in the end.  We don’t want to quit living.

In the long run, that all seems crazy since the transition from now to then is inevitable.

The good news is that eternity began for us the moment we acknowledged that God is the true God and Jesus Christ is His son.  That transition will come when it comes.  Life on earth is what we know now and life in heaven is what we will know then. 

Eternity has begun.

June 7 - We Bring Peace

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June 7 – We Bring Peace

“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

“Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:25-33)

One of the most difficult things to explain to someone who doesn’t know where their faith lies is the peace that is found in Jesus.

I have many friends who faced terrible, awful things – illnesses, death, loss – before knowing God.  Those periods of time were lonely, dark, terrible times for them.

On the flip side – they faced many of the same types of events after coming to know Jesus and describe a completely different response.  They were assured of the comfort that He offers.  No matter how tough it got, they were confident of not being alone.

I don’t know about you, but when I am close to someone who is facing dreadful situations and they don’t know Jesus well, all I can do is offer to be the comfort that He offers so that they can see a little bit of Jesus through me.  I see His hand reaching out to them, drawing them close to His heart … but all they can see is the pain of the trauma in front of them.  I am called to be His hands, the expression of His love when I am with them.

We may not understand the importance of our work on earth.  It isn’t always just about telling people about Jesus or witnessing to His work in our lives.  It isn’t always leaving the country on a mission trip or raising funds for those in need or doing great works on a fairly impersonal level. 

Sometimes it is about offering the peace that we know intimately, offering sanity in the midst of turmoil and love in the midst of loss, comfort in the midst of grief and joy in the midst of pain.  We bring Jesus to the world through our lives every day to remind those around us that they are not alone … the Father is always with each one of us.

June 6 - Grief to Joy

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 6 – Grief to Joy

Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:16-24)

I can’t tell you the number of times I have questioned the path that God has placed me on.  I hate the process of transformation.  When I anticipate the change, I am terrified. In the middle of the transformation, I am in pain.  But, I always seem to come out on the other side a stronger and better person – understanding the necessity of the process and grateful for the learning that occurred.

I have spent time screaming at God, begging Him, pleading with Him, furious with Him.  And even as the tears flow, I know that He remains steadfast.

Jesus knew that His disciples would grieve.  They wouldn’t understand the process that they were about to face.  They would be terrified, they would feel such incredible grief.  But, He also knew that when it was over they would understand it and feel incomprehensible joy.

That joy was His gift back to them and it His gift to us.  Though I would like a road map for the rest of my life so that I can understand exactly what it is God has for me to do, I know that it will never be that easy.  Each step of the process will probably be difficult and bring grief and terror.

On the other side of each step, though, I also know that because I walk with Jesus, there will be joy … incomprehensible joy. I look forward to that when I face those impossible transformations. 

June 5 - Change

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June 5 – Change

Now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:5-15)

This is one of those passages that relates a lot to my life. 

It is so easy to get stuck on living life the way we are used to living – without change.  When we see change approaching, we do everything in our power to halt its approach and when we can’t get that done, we grieve for the old way of life.

The disciples couldn’t even ask Jesus where He was going because they were so focused on their grief.  They didn’t understand that in the changes that were to come, the entire earth would be transformed. 

Jesus saw the big picture.  He recognized that change would bring great things and that with His death, the power of the Holy Spirit would be able to cover the entirety of the world, not just the small area where His feet could travel.  The disciples would take His message into the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

I have a love/hate relationship with change. I have learned to look far past the moment of change to see all the possibilities that are out there, so it excites me in many cases.  In other cases – sometimes very personal cases – I panic when I realize that change is coming.  I want to ignore it and hope that it will pass me by and everything will stay the same when I come out of my hidey-hole.

When Jesus talked to His disciples about change, the one thing He made clear was that He (and the Father and the Spirit) were consistent – never changing.  There is one thing that we can always count on to remain the same.  The Spirit would come to bring truth, but everything that the Spirit relates to us comes from Jesus … from the Father. The teaching will remain the same, the relationship will remain the same.  He is unchanging … the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

So, I face change with the knowledge that there is stability found in Jesus Christ.  I may face it from inside a hole with a blanket pulled over my head, or I may face it with my arms open wide, but I will never be alone.  There will be a foundation under my feet no matter what.

June 4 - Testify

Saturday, June 4, 2011

June 4 – Testify

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

“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, (John 15:26-16:4)

Jesus wanted those who were closest to Him to tell the world about what they knew.  The Spirit of Truth would testify and so would those who had been with Him from the beginning.

Those who are closest to us will be the ones to tell others about who we are.  This is the fruit of our lives.  Your children daily proclaim to the world what living with you is really like – they show respect if you treat them with respect and expect the same in return.  They show compassion if they learn it from you, tolerance if you are open-minded or bigotry if you are narrow-minded.  They learn love from you, the people they are closest to and then, in turn, are able to show that to the world.

Our friends reflect our lives as well.  They recognize safety in a relationship and in turn can walk away to offer that to another.  Our co-workers choose to work well or poorly based on how we live with them in the workplace.  All of these relationships are the fruit of our lives.

Jesus knew that the fruit of His life would come from how He impacted His disciples and then as the Spirit came into the world and testified to His great works.  Two thousand years later, the fruit that came from His short time on earth is still producing great things – transformed lives that continue to testify about the relationship that can be had with the Creator of everything.

June 3 – Staying Out of Trouble

Friday, June 3, 2011

June 3 – Staying Out of Trouble

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

One of those things I had to learn early on in my life was that there would be certain people who didn’t like me simply because of who my father was.  As the Methodist pastor in small towns, he was there to challenge people’s beliefs about the world and that often reflected on his family.

As I grew older, I discovered that by living my life as a Christian, there would be people who didn’t like me.  My parents didn’t mind the fact that I wasn’t invited to the keggars or wild parties or that boys were too frightened of Dad to get pushy with me.  Many years later, a guy I dated for a short time during high school told me that he never kissed me because he was afraid I’d tell Dad.  Then, others started telling me about parties I didn’t get asked to attend because they were certain I would tell Dad.  I really don’t know what the kids thought was happening in our home.  I did NOT tell my parents everything that I did and the last thing I would talk to Dad about was a boy kissing me, but because of who I was, there was a certain amount of distance between me and the kids around me.

I guess I made it through high school fairly unscathed because of that.  Maybe that’s what Jesus wants us to realize in this passage as well.  It isn’t necessarily the worst thing for the world to hate you or ignore you or leave you out of things because you love Jesus.  It might surprise you to realize that when you don’t get invited to do things because of your relationship with Jesus, it keeps you out of a lot of trouble!

June 2 - Sacrificing for Friends

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June 2 – Sacrificing for Friends

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

How do you love your friends?

I was talking to a friend the other day and they mentioned that they sometimes felt as if their life was a lot like Facebook.  Most of their friends were the “Happy Birthday, I hope you have a great day” type of friends.  Nothing was ever more intimate than, “Hi, How are you … I’m fine … hope you are as well.”  Very few people even cared to get past that with them.

Do you know that feeling?

I was working at a church years ago and wondered if people really cared whether or not they heard more than “I’m fine,” when they asked “How are you?”  So, I tested it.  One of the guys I worked with on practically a daily basis called to go over some things we were dealing with and I knew the first question after saying hello would be “How are you?”  To be honest … that day was hard.  I’d had more nos than yesses while searching for Sunday School teachers and I was at my wits end.  I told him that the morning had been tough. 

He didn’t skip a beat – went right into the information he needed to give to me and then got off the phone.  I remember the stunned feeling in my heart.  My usual answer, no matter how tough things were, was “I’m fine.”  No one else needed to know the struggles I was having.  He couldn’t handle it.  The moment I opened up, though … I was set aside.

Very few friends can really handle us.  They are dealing with their own stuff and don’t want to know what is going on deep down inside us.  They don’t want to manage anything else.  There aren’t many that are willing to sacrifice a significant amount of time to walk through a problem, to take the time to be there, no matter what, whenever you need them.  To offer themselves sacrificially to you before you ask … no matter what might come.
Jesus calls us to love each other with that type of sacrificial love.  To drop everything, including our own needs and desires, to care for people around us … not just those we are required to care for (our family), but our friends. 

Every day we encounter people on a very surface level.  We give them a moment’s attention and then are drawn into something else and away from their needs.  What would it take for us to ‘lay down our lives’ for our friends, to love them with everything that we have, to offer unconditional friendship?  Can we do it for one friend? Can we do it for more than that?  Can we transform ourselves to do it for anyone we call friend?

June 1 - Suckers

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1 – Suckers

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)

I remember learning about ‘suckers’ on tomato plants.  I couldn’t figure out what in the world Dad was doing – spending all of that time around a plant that should be able to grow on its own.  Then I planted my own tomatoes and when they weren’t producing well, he told me the secret.

Oh!  Those useless suckers ‘suck up’ the nutrition that should be supporting the tomatoes in order to grow luscious, healthy fruit (or vegetables – whatever you want to believe!).

I’ve been in churches where the ‘suckers’ take up the life of the church.  Their complaining and sniping, back-biting and hatefulness took up time and stripped the life from the church until all it had time to do was support them.  There was never a chance to grow or bring in new life.

I’ve been in relationships where ‘suckers’ take everything out of me and I don’t have time to do anything positive, I’m simply managing their whining and complaining.

That pruning of the suckers allows freedom and growth.  It isn’t easy, but it is necessary.

With a little pruning and then with a lot of strength that comes from Jesus, we bear fruit.  We become people that bring something positive to the world around us.