Putting God's Word into Practice…

John 18 and 19 Fear, Fakers, Falsehood, Faithful

Fear.  John 18:1-11.  Out of the many wonders of Scripture, one event I wish I had more details on is found in verses 4-6: Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “whom do you seek?”  They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.”  Judas who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.  I wonder if they drew back and fell down from fear or awe or if it was a supernatural smack down.  Regardless, we will all bow our knees and fall before Him when we see Him.  Any encounter with Jesus will demand an appropriate response!

Fakers. John 18:12-32.  The people wrongfully arrested and questioned Jesus.  They were desiring His death for no crime, but out of their own jealousy and fear.  When they got Jesus from Caiaphas’s house to the governor’s headquarters, “they did not enter so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.”  Does anyone else see the irony in that?    They were piling guilt on themselves, while trying to personally maintain their holiness.  Jesus is the Passover incarnate!  He is their salvation.  How often do we focus on the wrong thing and miss the big picture?  How often do we try to follow the rules and miss out on Christ’s righteousness?

Falsehood.  John 18:33-40.  Jesus came to bear witness to the truth, but no one was listening.  They had bought so many lies, that they were completely deceived.  Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?”  Jesus is truth.  But just like today, our culture wants to believe that truth is relative and not absolute.  In so thinking, they are following what is false.  If we really want truth, we must look to Jesus alone.

Faithful.  John 19.  “It is finished!”  Jesus accomplished His purpose.  Nothing more is needed for reconciliation between God and man–only Jesus’ death and shed blood in our place.  Jesus was faithful to the end.  Lord, may I be like Jesus–faithful to complete all that you purpose for my life for Your glory and to rescue others by pointing them to Your Son.

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John 17 – Description and Outcome of Supernatural Unity

As I finished reading this chapter, the one thing that stood out to me was the word “one.”  Oneness, or unity, is Christ’s heart for His followers.  Two questions also came to mind that I believe our Savior’s prayer answers. 1. Why is there disunity in the body of Christ? 2. Why does the church seem ineffective in our world?

Description of Supernatural Unity

A group of people who:

  1. keep God’s Word (6)
  2. believe the truth about Jesus (7)
  3. belong to the Father (11)
  4. are filled with Christ’s joy (13)
  5. are set apart for holy service to God in this world (17)
  6. are sent out as humble servants (18)
  7. are filled with God’s love (26)

When there is disunity in the body of Christ it is probably because one of these bonds is out of whack.  Disunity stems from unbelief, fear, selfishness, pride and personal agenda.  

Outcome of Supernatural Unity

  1. People in this world may believe in Him (21)
  2. That people will know God’s love for them (23)
  3. The we will see Jesus’ glory (24)

So why is the church ineffective in our world? Because we are not unified!

I’m going to spend some time searching my heart for areas that I am ineffective with the gospel because of selfish motives and disunity with my fellow followers of Christ.  May we be one as Jesus and the Father are one!

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John 16:16-33 Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

Jesus told His disciples they would only see Him a little while longer, then they will not see Him, but again in a little while they will see Him.  The disciples were confused!  They did not want to be separated from Jesus.

Jesus went on to foretell their weeping, lamenting, and sorrowful hearts over being separated from Him, while the rest of the world would rejoice.  Jesus promised that He would turn their sorrow into joy; not by changing their circumstances, but by promising they WILL SEE Him again!  He is our source of joy–seeing Him and being close to Him.  No one can steal that joy, because no one can take Jesus from us. When I feel like I’ve “lost my joy” or that my “joy has been stolen,” it’s probably because I took my eyes off of Jesus as my spring of joy.

When I am not feeling joyful, I need to ask God.  Jesus promised us His joy in 15:11. One of the fruit of the Spirit is joy and Jesus promised that our Good Father will give more of the Spirit (and joy) to those who ask (Luke 11:13).  As we ask, the Father answers, giving us full joy.

In these last few chapters the promises of love, joy and peace are written over and over.  Those are the qualities of life we are all looking for, and they are only found in Jesus Christ.  They are the qualities that will sustain us in this world of trouble.

In this world trouble is certain, and no one is exempt.  Christ promises peace IN THE MIDST of trouble.  He also offers hope that this world is not all there is–that we WILL SEE Him again. So take heart–take courage–You will see your Champion, Jesus Christ.  You will experience fullness of love, joy and peace forever in His presence.

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John 16:4-15 The Work of the Holy Spirit

The disciples were sorrowful that Jesus was leaving them.  However, Jesus promised them someone even better.  The Holy Spirit would dwell inside of them all the time, sealing them until they arrive at Heaven.  Many people think it would be easier to follow Jesus if we lived when He did on earth, but the truth is, we have the power of the Spirit in us constantly if our faith is in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

I read this quote earlier from Warren Wiersbe:  “Just as the Son of God had to have a body in order to do His work on earth, so the Spirit of God needs a body to accomplish His ministries; and that body is the church. . . . The Spirit does not ‘float’ in some ghostly way up and down the rows of a church building, seeking to win the lost. The Holy Spirit works through the people in whom He lives.”

With that in mind, let’s focus in on what the Holy Spirit’s job is, and ultimately how you can be used by God when you let the Spirit do His work through you!  

He will convict the world concerning:

  1. Sin.  He helps people to recognize the sin of unbelief in their lives in order to point them to repentance and salvation in Jesus. (9)
  2. Righteousness.  Jesus was the earthly example of righteousness and since He is no longer walking the earth; we need someone to show us what true righteousness is and make obvious to us that we can’t measure up to God’s standard of righteousness. (10)
  3. Judgment.  If we do not belong to God, we belong to Satan–the ruler of this world.  Satan is already defeated, judged and condemned.  Believing is Christ is the only way to be victorious, living apart from Christ is futile. (11)

The Holy Spirit will also:

  1. Guide us in all truth.
  2. Speak to our hearts–including declaring to us our hope for the future.
  3. Give glory to Jesus.

Are you letting the Holy Spirit dwell in you in such a way that He is using you to accomplish His work?  Are you pointing people to Jesus?

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John 15:9-17 Bonus Feature

My husband has been preaching through the book of John since November, and today he covered the same verses that I studied over the weekend.  I know that I already wrote what the Holy Spirit laid on my heart from the passage, but because God’s Word is living, I’d like to share the fresh breath it gave me today.

The quote that started my heart:  “If your Christian life feels like work, then you have no clue what it means to be a friend of God.”  Jesus promises us that our obedience causes us to abide in HIS love, and it fills us with HIS joy.  Obedience is not work, obedience brings joy.

He shared about working for his friend, and what a difference it makes when your boss is your friend.  He worked at a car dealership for a time preparing cars for the lot–a lot technician!  But two days a week, he was able to go with his friend to the car auction.  Those days were best because it didn’t feel like work at all, but like hanging out with a friend.  That is how our Christian life should be.  Jesus is more than our boss, He is our friend.

Then he shared this story.  When he was a youth pastor, they took a group of teens from Ohio to Mexico.  One of the leaders was filling the van with gas as Brad came around the corner of the vehicle.  The man said, “These gas pumps are weird down here.  They don’t even fit in the tank.”  To which they discovered that the reason the pump nozzle didn’t fit was because they were fueling the van with diesel!  That is how it is with us.  God has made us to run on His joy!  The problem is we look to so many other things to fill our tank, things that end up destroying us or leaving us empty because they just don’t fit.

Is your Christian life characterized by joy?  Is your obedience fueled by joy?  Do you think of Jesus as your friend or your boss?

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John 15:12-16:4a ~ Love and Friendship

In 15:12 Jesus didn’t just command us to love one another, He commanded us to love one another AS he loves us.  Think about all the ways He shows love love to us…the first being that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  In 15:13 Jesus taught the greatest display of love is one who lays down their life for their friends.  When I hear this, my first thought is pushing someone out of the way of oncoming traffic, and being willing to get myself run over in the process.  However, there are many ways that we can lay our lives down.

  1. Put my agenda on hold when someone needs me–whether its my husband needing a kiss, my kids needing to cuddle or help with homework, or a friend needing a listening ear and prayer.
  2. Put something I want on hold to give to someone who has a need.
  3. Be willing to go without sleep to help others or to spend extra time in prayer interceding for them.
  4. Be honest about my mistakes and sins in order to help others, instead of trying to protect my reputation.
  5. Be willing to serve–even washing feet or other menial, inglorious acts.

It is impossible to love apart from belonging to and knowing God (1 John 4:7).  Those who love AS Christ, are intimate friends of Christ.  God chose us to go and bear fruit.  We do that by loving others.  Loving them enough to go to them and to share truth with them.  Whenever we ask for more love and more fruit, God will answer that prayer.  Prayer, going and loving are the components to bearing lasting fruit.

All of this would be a lot easier in a perfect world, but unfortunately we live in a sin-infested, Christ-hating, truth-ignoring culture.  So how can we love in the midst of hatred and persecution?

  1. Know you were chosen to be God’s love agent in this world. (19)
  2. Know Jesus sympathizes with the pain of rejection, hatred and persecution. (20)
  3. Know you have a Helper, the Spirit of truth, dwelling in you. (26)
  4. Know it is impossible to love and to fall away from God.  Loving keeps you close to Him! (16:1)

How can you show the love of Jesus with someone today?

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John 15:1-11 Practical Pruning Application

I want to be a part of Jesus’ vine that bears lasting, beautiful, sweet fruit.  Therefore, I must anticipate and rejoice in pruning.  It is the Father’s job to prune those who are attached to His Son.  I wanted to find out more about pruning from a gardening perspective and found the Wikipedia information to have many spiritual parallels. 

  1. Pruning prevents injury from the weight of future fruit and also from winter’s snow and ice.  Psalm 1:3 says that we bear fruit in season.  No tree bears fruit year round.  God knows when we will need stability for either fruitful seasons or cold, stormy seasons.  He prunes us to strengthen us for both.
  2. Pruning allows the arborist to determine the shape, size and productivity of the branch.  We can trust our master Vinedresser to do what is best for us and what will be best for us to accomplish His plans in our lives and in our world.  We have to trust Him.
  3. Pruning prevents injury to a weak crotch (the place where two vines meet together at a larger branch).  This says to me that the Father’s pruning protects relationships in the body of Christ.
  4. The main aim of pruning is to obtain a decent crop of fruit rather than a tree with a lush abundance of unproductive foliage.  How many of us resist God’s pruning because we’d rather look good than be useful?
  5. Unpruned trees yield a large crop of small worthless fruit that is usually damaged by pests and disease and fruit that grows out of reach at the top of the tree.  Reminds us again why pruning is good for us…it protects us.
  6. Formative pruning=during the early years there is a greater need to develop a framework that is sufficiently strong and capable of bearing the weight of future fruit.  Because they don’t submit early on to the pruning of the Lord, many people go through life without experience the fruitfulness that God intended for their lives.

Why is bearing fruit so important?  Verse 8 holds the answer.  It says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  If bearing fruit proves that we belong to God, then pruning is a necessary part of the process.  And we can receive it with grace and gratitude knowing it is coming from the loving hands of our Father and it is for His glory and our good.

Another command that really stood out in my initial reading was from verse 9, “abide in my love.”  Take one minute and think about those words….In God’s love is a place of warmth and security.   The next verse tells us the way to abide in His love is to keep His commandments.  It reminds me of the old parental phrase, “As long as you live under my roof you will live by my rules.”  Parents don’t say that because they want their children to feel in bondage.  They say it because they love their children and know abiding in their home/love is where provision, protection, proper care and joy are found.  It is the same with God.  Jesus left us a great reason and promise for why He desires obedience, abiding, and fruitfulness.  In verse 11 it says, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

JOY-pure, perfect, unending-found in Jesus!

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John `4:15-31 Helper and Teacher

In verse 15 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  What commandment did He just give them in 13:34:  love one another.  If we love Him, we will love others.  If we believe in Jesus; the Holy Spirit dwells in us!  Jesus called Him our “Helper.”  he will help us in life and loving others.  the problem is that most of us don’t want help!  We want to strive and struggle and do it alone.  Think about your toughest current situation.  Have you asked the Holy Spirit for help?  Have you listened to His plan/advice?  Have you let Him help you accomplish His plan?

The Holy Spirit is also our teacher.  He reminds us of truth we already know and holds wisdom and knowledge for ALL things.  Where am I looking for information and knowledge outside of the Holy Spirit?  Do I go to Him first?  Am I teachable?

In verse 27 Jesus promised them, “Peace, My peace, I give to You.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  When we are trying to help ourselves and lean on our own understanding, we leave ourselves open to having a troubled, fretting heart.  Our hearts can be filled with the peace of God by living surrendered to the Holy Spirit–our Helper and Teacher.  Peace casts out fear and leaves no room for worry.

God wants so much more for us than we want for ourselves.  Let’s trust Him more and rely more fully on His Spirit in us today!

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John 14:1-14 Remedy for a Troubled Heart

Jesus had been talking to His disciples about His departure and promising them that they will see Him again–not on earth, but where He was going.  They were confused.  Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”  Ever had a troubled heart?  Maybe a heart that is consumed with fear of the future?  Fear of loss?  Uncertainty about a relationship?  Jesus gives the remedy in verse 1:  “Believe in God; believe also in me.”  When our hearts are troubled, it is because we are not believing–not believing God is who He says and does what He promises.

In the disciples’ case, Jesus does not want them to be troubled because He is making them an eternal home where they will be with Him always.  This is the HOPE of every one of Jesus’ followers.  He is the only way, the only truth and the only life!

Philip said, “Lord, show us…” and Jesus responded with, “Do you not believe?”  Faith is believing even when we cannot see.  My pastor taught this passage a few weeks ago and brought up the fact that we, as humans, too easily settle for things we can see and believe those things will satisfy.  Then we wonder why we are troubled and don’t see God’s power in our lives.  Believing in Jesus alone is the key to an abundant and powerful life.  He promises that ANYTHING we ask Him for, THAT WOULD GIVE GLORY TO THE FATHER, He will do it!

Do I believe it?  Am I asking for anything that would give glory to the Father, or do I ask for what will give glory to me? Where am I living my life apart from belief in Your promises?

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John 13–Love

First I have to start with two confessions.  Yesterday I did not read my Bible and I was in the nursery during church so I missed the preaching.  Thanks to God’s grace, I am still “dailybiblereader2012,” but what I difference a day makes of not being in His pure Word.

Second, this chapter has given me cause for fear today.  There is one phrase that God consistently is playing over and over in my mind:  “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”  This past week, a women who has been suffering with dementia passed away.  The last several years have been difficult on her husband, but he has tenderly cared for her and is saddened by his loss.  The following day I visited our next door neighbor who patiently and tirelessly cares for his wife who is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  I hope that if God brought that kind of trial or pain into my life, I would be able to “love to the end” like Jesus.  My husband reminded me that I can’t but that the Holy Spirit can do it through me.

How did Jesus love his own to the end?  He never gave up on them.  He never thought it was high time they start to serve Him.  He didn’t make them feel guilty for what He was about to do–lay down His life for them.  He just loved them–humbly, selflessly, and sacrificially.

Another amazing thought is that Jesus knew that Satan had already put it in Judas Iscariot’s heart to betray Him, yet He washed Judas’ feet too.  How could He do such good to His enemy?  I believe verse 3 holds the answer, “Jesus, knowing the Father…” Jesus had entrusted His entire earthly life into His Father’s sovereign plan.  Because He knew His Father’s heart and purposes, Jesus was able to love even His enemy to the end.

Jesus didn’t just wash their feet to love and serve them, He did it to set an example for His followers.  He commanded, “You also ought to wash one another’s feet,” and “do just as I have done to you.”  Foot washing was a menial task in those days…to be a foot-washer was humiliating and undignified.  Many would see it the same today.  Fortunately, I grew up in a church that made foot washing part of their communion services. (Don’t worry, we washed our hands between washing feet and breaking bread!)  It seemed as a young girl that I always got “stuck” washing the old ladies’ feet who left their stockings on. But, looking back, I can see the beauty in the tradition.  

In 2007, I had a difficult year in ministry. We had moved our family to start a church from scratch.  I went to work full-time.  And God didn’t seem to be working things out with the church on my timetable.  I became angry and bitter.  During the summer of 2008, God broke my heart and humbled me.  I felt Him asking me to wash the feet of the women in our summer Bible study.  I really just wanted to confess and make muffins for them, but I was sure that he was asking me to go “lower.”  I don’t know if they remember that day, but I do.  It was the pathway to blessing in my heart and life just like Jesus promised in verse 17:  “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Verses 21-30.  Jesus named His betrayer by giving him bread to eat.  How very like Jesus–He was always feeding people!  (As a mother of two healthy, growing boys, I can relate!)  Immediately Satan entered Judas, he left the building, and it was night.   I believe that is physical and well as metaphorical night.  Judas stopped following Jesus and went out on his own.  (8:12, 11:9-10, 12:35-36)

Verse 31-38.  Jesus went on to teach of the importance of love.  He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Love means laying down my life, my rights, my reputation, my plans for someone else.  That’s how Jesus loved!  Peter thought he understood love by committing to lay his life down for Jesus.  But Jesus knew already that Peter would deny Him when times got scary, and that’s where my concern comes in.  I believe that I would say to Jesus like Peter, “I would lay down my life for you.”  But is that how I live on a daily basis?  When push comes to shove, will I love boldly and sacrificially?  Will I lay down my life for others who aren’t willing to lay down their lives for me like Jesus did?

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