Where Were You…The Apostle John’s Reflections….

ImageWe all have times when we can recall “where we were” when something of significance happened. As we read John 19, the Apostle John shares with us his recollection of the day when holiness was triumphant over evil. John shares with us “where he was” on that fateful day when the words of Simeon must have come flooding back to the heart of Mary: Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, [Luke 2]

As we read John 19 and see the ugliness of sin in all of its horror we recall these words of Jesus: “hated by everyone because of my name….yet a time is coming when the one who kills you will think he is offering service to God.” The religious leaders fulfilled those words when they cried: “crucify him, crucify him.” But, what man plans for evil God turns to good. Jesus endured that we might see God’s plan and purpose for the redemption of man. Act 2:23 this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles…thus fulfilling John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”…so that the truth of Acts 4:12 might be ours to claim: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

In the midst of this horror, John focuses our attention on Christ, and along with the other gospel writers, shares the last words heard from the lips of our Savior:

Father, Forgive them, they know not what they do…

[to the thief] Today you shall be with me in paradise…

[to Mary] Woman, behold your son and [to John] behold your mother…

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?…

I thirst…

It is finished…

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit…

From there, John turns our attention to the small band of persistent faithful followers as they and he become witnesses to this scene. It was this tenacity, this indefatigable belief in Jesus as THE CHRIST that carried them to this point in time. John 19:25 “Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene…and the disciple whom he loved standing there,” This scene would be forever etched in John’s memory as the turning point of his faith, the turning point of seeing God’s plan fulfilled…but as of yet he did not understand the full scope.

And then John turns our attention to the two secret disciples who stepped out of the darkness into the light. They had not been strong enough to stand in life but Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus became the ministering servants to the body of our Lord in his death. What they paid in the earthly price for their stand against the Sanhedrin is not known but it was a small price for what they gained in eternal rewards. “Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.” [Matt 10]                         

 Where were you when you realized the price paid for your sin?

Image

0

Today: To Ponder: Who is God to you?

ImageWho is God to you? In reading Psalm 132 three lines in particular stand out among the rest: God remembers, God keeps his promises, God is one who determines and carries it to fruition.

God remembers: We can begin as far back as Exodus where God remembered his covenant: Exo 2:24 God heard their groaning, God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and as far forward as His mercy: Heb 8:12For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer.”

Take time today to recall and praise God for His remembrance of you.

God keeps his promises: Heb 10:23 And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. Dan 9:4 “O Lord, great and awesome God who is faithful to his covenant…” 2Co 1:20 For every one of God’s promises are “Yes” in him; therefore also through him the “Amen” is spoken, to the glory we give to God. Take time today to praise God for His promises to you that have been kept and fulfilled. Image

What God determines that He will do: Is 14:24 “The Lord who commands armies makes this solemn vow:“Be sure of this: Just as I have intended, so it will be; just as I have planned, it will happen. Ps 132:17 “There I will make David strong; I have determined that my chosen king’s dynasty will continue.”

This then prepares us for the travail and trial that our Savior will face in the chapters ahead of us in the book of John. What God had determined in eternity past will be fulfilled in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus: Act 2:23 this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles.  For this reason: 2Co 4:15 For all these things are for your sake, so that the grace that is including more and more people may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God. Rom 15:6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus when God reveals His attributes we can be sure of His trustworthiness. Thus He says 6 times in vs 14 to 17 “I will…”

Thank God today that He is (a) unchangeable (1Sam 15:29, Num 23:19) for He is “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change”  (b) a promise keeper and (c) has in eternity past planned for you.

Image

0

Today’s Devotional: From One Wilderness to Another….

ImageOne thought grabbed my attention in preparing the summary reading for today. We remember that Jesus began his public ministry after being in the wilderness for 40 days being tempted by the evil one, Satan himself. After 11 chapters of John’s observations of what transpired after that moment in time we find that the evil one is once again “ on the prowl looking for someone to devour.” [1Pet 5:8]. This time it is Jesus himself. Satan wants to destroy the very Son of God and will use the blind unbelieving Pharisees as his instruments to carry out his will, but before the Savior is brought to the cross, Jesus is once again seeking the wilderness where he can be nourished by the ones nearest and dearest to him, the disciples and His Father. 

Where do you/I seek nourishment when we know a trial is ahead? With whom do we receive refreshment?

We seem to busy ourselves but not so our Lord. He is being refreshed there for his heart is heavy. Some saw the miracle of the raising of Lazarus and gave God glory but some returned to tell the Pharisees. Why did they go? Was it purely unbelief? We may never know the true heart reason but we do then read of the prophecy given by the high priest Caiaphas: “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish.” Later in chapter 12 we find that the religious leaders compounded their sinful intentions by planning to kill the risen Lazarus as well.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive” [Sir. W. Scott] This is the setting in Chapter 12 as we see the web being woven to entrap and murder the miracle worker, Son of David, Son of God as well as Lazarus. In the midst of this we hear the Savior say: ““The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Although Jesus had performed and offered many signs to authenticate Himself, they still refused to believe in him. Isaiah wrote about these unbelievers saying that God has blinded their eyes, hardened their heart so that they would not see, understand with their heart, and turn to God for healing. “Jesus said in John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” The unbelief of Israel is a guilty unbelief. Our unbelief is a guilty unbelief.” [Piper]

After this John notes: 12:42/43 “Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”

Beloved Reader, There are several unanswered questions before us: (1) Where do we find ourselves in the time of trial?  Do we retreat to the wilderness to be refreshed? (2) What about our decision to follow? Is it in a closet for fear of men or do you openly proclaim? (3)Where do we find our heart today? Are we like those who saw and believed or like the blind Pharisees and other unbelieving Jews?

0

Waiting on God!

ImageDevotional for Ps 129-131 There is a familiar hymn many have sung whose first lines go as follows: Speak, Lord, in the stillness, while I wait on thee; Hushed my heart to listen, in expectancy. Little is known about the author, E. May Grimes, other than in 1893 she traveled to S. Africa as a missionary and married Dr. Crawford of the Christian Missionary  Society in British East Africa. Since she wrote this hymn many have clung to it in times of travail and trouble Her words have resonated with many across the many years for it reminds us of our posture when we want to hear from God.

The psalmist wrote in these three psalms of the struggles the Israelites had with bordering nations who harassed them often. It is in this frame of reference that he wrote that he wanted his people to wait on God. To help them he reminds them of God’s character which is righteousness; he alone has the power to vanquish their enemies and he is just.  A principle was brought forth from this psalm by C. H. Spurgeon: “Never has God used a nation to chastise his Israel without destroying that nation when the chastisement has come to a close: he hates those who hurt his people even though he permits their hate to triumph for a while for his own purpose.” This is a good reminder when we face struggles and onslaughts from the enemy himself. Satan is our foe but he is only allowed a certain time and then God will remove his power and his pointed lance.

In the meantime, the psalmist reminds us in Ps 130 that we are to wait upon Him. Other biblical authors have had the same refrain and we would be wise to heed these words. Why should we wait on the Lord? When we step in and seek to corral the enemy we only stop God from accomplishing His purposes and we find that the battle is far more challenging than we had realized. Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.

Today, Beloved Friend, follow the principles given in these psalms: 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. His Word is as it says: Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.

May our prayer be “I Will Wait on Him.” May our posture be: Ps 131:2 “Indeed I am composed and quiet,”

0

Jesus is the True Manna

ImageHow often do I fail to realize that Jesus is the Always Abundant Bread of Life? As I was reading John 6 I once again saw how he, the  Apostle John, continues to provide opportunities for my eyes to be opened and for me to see the Living Water and the Healer of all diseases! Thus in John’s loving way as the beloved disciple asks me to join him on a mountainside to witness the Bread of Life reveal himself as the true manna from heaven, the Jehovah Jireh. Come with me on a mountainside picnic and then decide: is today’s manna enough or have you and I  chosen to feed upon him: The Bread of Life?

5000 come to hear the Master speak. There is a problem and the disciples have a solution. The problem as seen through Matthew, Mark and Luke’s perspective—send the crowds home. “This is an isolated place and the hour is already late. Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” And now John’s perspective. Jesus asks Philip for a solution as he was testing him. Philip comes up sorrowfully wanting. “We don’t have enough money to purchase the food; you can’t expect us to use all of our resources which are not nearly enough even for us, do you?” But, then there is Andrew, the one who is always seeking people. [Of all the apostles this one is dearest to my heart, always finding others to bring to Jesus…would that I be more like him!] Andrew finds a little boy and brings him to Jesus. Does he expect Jesus to multiply? If he does, Jesus will not fail. He will be the provider of the “manna.”  How often am I like the disciples and especially Philip? I only see the problem but not the God solution before  me even though I  have seen and seen and seen His provision in other circumstances. I find that more often than I would like to admit. I  say to myself, oh but this one is different, it is not just one person but 5000! My neighborhood is full of homes with adults and children and my house is small. How can I feed them all? How can I minister to “them”? Sometimes I am like the queen that said “let them eat cake.” That is when Jehovah Jireh, Our Provider steps into action that I may learn; “I AM” is in my presence and He desires to provide and will provide that I may know God has the answer to my problems and that I can reach out beyond knowing that God will provide and He will be glorified. 

From here on John reveals even more about Jesus.

  • Vs 25-40 I am the Bread of Life,
  • I will provide that you may not hunger or thirst,
  • I have come from heaven do God’s will,
  • I will raise up those who believe,
  • I will give them eternal life.

But, it is then that Jesus also challenges me . If you feed upon me you will never hunger for my manna is not like the manna that was gathered once a day but I will continue to feed you over and over and over and over. My manna never will grow stale or my water will never dry up.

*****If you fail to feed on me you will die in your sins.***

What am I feeding upon– Do I only see with my physical eyes only or do I see with my spiritual eyes the Jehovah Jireh that will provide an ongoing supply for my needs? Will I trust Him to do that?

PS Philip “got it” and probably never forgot this remarkable scene. For you readers take a trip down memory lane and read Acts 8 and see how Philip changed from selfishness to gratitude; to not trusting to totally trusting in the Jehovah Jireh.

 

 

 

 

 

0

Discernment or Folly? What Would You Choose?

Today we open the most precious Holy Word and read Prov 26. King Solomon in his wisdom has given us a chapter dedicated to helping us see with our eyes and mind that we may be discerning.

We have two English words that we can interchange: fool and dullard, which in Hebrew is the word [kesil]. The Jewish Study Bible defines it as: “The dullard is not merely a man of low intelligence. He is the kind of fool who is obtuse [that is not quick or alert in perception, author’s addition] because of smug overconfidence.”  Why should we study the “fool or dullard?” Pro 10:13 “Wisdom is found in the words of the discerning person…” Discernment is a gift that God has rightly given to those who are serious about being wise. Solomon prayed for such discernment in 1Kings 3:9 “So give your servant a discerning mind…” Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil. “Just as our Lord did not forbid us from discerning the character of fools, the Book of Proverbs commends this assessment as a necessity for those who would be wise.” [Bob Deffinbaugh]

ImageProv 26: The Characteristics of the Dullard: 1-7: Because he is unwise, it is not fitting that he should receive positions of honor in which decisions for country and kingdom are needed. He has neither the skills nor the wisdom to make just decisions. Vs 3: they only say a fool/dullard learns is by the “school of hard knocks” and even then it must be as something that is not just once but ongoing! Vs 4 & 5 seem to be contradictory at first but at second glance we learn that there are times when a response is neither warranted or needed because it would only lead to further folly or there are times when we must answer them to protect them and ourselves. Vs. 6 and Vs 9 is a warning similar to Matt 7: 6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.” A fool/dullard has no ability to appreciate or consider God’s Word as holy nor does he seek that. ICor 1:18 “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,” Why is this? Vs 7 “he handles an aphorism about as well as a lame man can walk. The fool does not understand, has not implemented, and cannot explain the proverb. It is useless to him even though he repeats it.”

Prov 26: The Folly/Actions of the Fool:  8-12 vs 8: it is counterproductive to honor a fool just as it is so giving power and honor to one who is unprepared. Vs 10 he who hires a fool reaps what he has sown; a costly and foolish undertaking—folly! Vs 12 sums up this section. The dullard/fool is self conceited in his own eyes and although you spend generous amounts of time seeking to make him wise it appears to be  a lost endeavor. They are smugly overconfident.

So what is the question we must ask ourselves today? Image Remember this principle when you read this chapter: The fool has many plans but God is the author and orchestrator of that which will bring about His work. If we are a parent it would be wise for us to discern if our children are leaning in this way recalling the wisdom of: Prov 22:6 “Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” Or if this chapters speaks to ourselves and we see our reflection in the mirror it would be wise for us not to walk away as James indicates we might, and remain in our “folly.”  We would be wise to learn from the character and consequences of the dullard and then implement strategies to be discerning.  Here are two helps: 2Tim 3:16-17 “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” Psa 119:11 “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You”

 

0

Dreaming…

Jn 5; Ps 126-128 “Dreaming…”

ImageThe invalid of John 5 must have thought he was dreaming as he obediently picked up his mat and walked to the Temple. How could this be? Who healed me? Entering the Temple full of awe and surprise whom does he meet but the ‘religious police’ of his day; the Pharisees. Upon hearing of his healing they did not stop to celebrate with him but rather began to question him. Who would tell you to do this “on the Sabbath?” Caught off guard by this barrage, we wonder what his thoughts were; why the Pharisees would not stop to give praise to God for this marvelous healing. Answering as best he could he continues on. It is then that as he walked to worship with his mind filled with thoughts, questions and wonderment that John tells us that the healer appears from out of nowhere. There is only one statement to the man and no return dialog. In vs 15 the man reveals to the Pharisees that it was indeed Jesus. Why did he go back to the Pharisees, these religious naysayers? Could it be that the truth of Prov 29:25 fit in here? 29:25 “The fear of people becomes a snare”? We may never know.

Yes truly the man seemed to be in a fog, so unable to understand what has just transpired. So too, the early Israelites after being freed by Cyrus command from the Babylonian captivity, find themselves in much this same frame of mind, filled with awe, filled with surprise, filled with wonder as they return to Jerusalem. Ps 126:1 “When the Lord restored the well-being of Zion, we thought we were dreaming.” Seventy years of captivity have come and gone. We are really here even though we thought this could not happen in our lifetime! We are in the midst of Jerusalem shouting for joy, laughing loudly and the naysayers are not raining on our parade but giving God praise: “The Lord has accomplished great things for these people.” What a change of heart!

The ‘religious police,’ the naysayers of Jesus’ day, will always be with us. But, also there will be others who, when they see God at work, will have to stop and give God praise. Recognizing that this could only happen because of God’s grace we too need to stop and give God praise.  The psalmist in these three psalms gives wise principles. It is truly a choice on our part. We can choose to return to the naysayers or we can choose to join the chorus and give God the praise!  These psalms, although written to the Jew, are as practically applicable to us today as they were then.

Image

  1. Give praise to God first and foremost: 126:3 The Lord did indeed accomplish great things for us.
  2. Recognize that apart from God no good thing comes to pass: 127:1 If the Lord does not build a house, then those who build it work in vain. If the Lord does not guard a city, then the watchman stands guard in vain.
  3. Fear the Lord in all holiness and reverence: 128:4 Yes indeed, the man who fears the Lord will be blessed in this way.
  4. Seek God’s blessing upon others: 128:5 May the Lord bless you from Zion, that you might see Jerusalem prosper all the days of your life,
  5. With restoration comes a responsibility to live a righteous life. Blessed with God’s provision of healing seek to abide by what Jesus told the healed invalid: “Look, you have become well. Don’t sin any more, lest anything worse happen to you.”  

Did the invalid follow these principles? We must wait until eternity to find out. In the meantime, we are left with a choice. We can follow these principles today or we can join the naysayer’s camp. What will we choose to do?

 

0

A Life Hanging in the Balance….

ImageWe have all had the experience of a pastor preaching and it seems like everyone around us fades away and we stand alone in the crowd. It is as if the Holy Lord God Almighty is peering at us alone and then He asks: Do you want to be saved—healed from your sins? That is the picture we see in John 5. Jesus has a divine appointment in Jerusalem, not for a feast but for a person’s heart. He does not have to go to the pool of Siloam where the invalids lay but he purposes to go there because there lay a man who has been in this invalid condition for over 38 yrs. And so as he so often does, his heart seeks out that one that needs his grace, his love, his tenderness…and then the question is asked—

Do you want to become well? If that were me I think I would not be hesitant to answer: “YES!!” But, listen to this man’s response. Sigh…. “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I am trying to get into the water, someone else goes down there before me.” He totally ignores the question just like many do today. Sir, I cannot be saved because of thus and so. When I get someone to come alongside me and take me to the church, to the prayer meeting then and perhaps then…. Jesus then ignores his response and moves aside the cobwebs of blameshifting and pity. “Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk.” His grace is sufficient and is the healing agent that ignores our past and our present because he has a work of grace for our future. His grace must be completed for one reason: that we sin no more but live holy lives in service for him.

And then as the first act reaches its climax we read: (Now that day was a Sabbath.) Why does John tell us this bit of information? It is so that we realize and acknowledge that the day is of little importance, the man’s life and eternity hangs in the balance. It is now or never. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and “My Father is working until now, and I too am working.” Today Beloved Friend, there is someone who needs to hear the message of salvation; it is now or never. Tomorrow may never come and this person may stand before the Father just as defiled as this paralyzed man. He could not attend worship, he could not beg on the streets, he could not (you fill in the blank).

What divine appointment is God planning for you today? Are you ready to share it with someone who is pitifully laying amongst the crowd waiting to hear “Do you want to become saved?” Beware of listening to their pitiful blameshifting but push forward to tell them the good news. They are waiting for someone, you or I, to pull them aside out of the crowd and ask: Do you know Jesus? If you were to die today where would you spend eternity? Be bold! Be brave! You and I have the message to bring them new life. We can bring them to the Savior and proclaim the message of salvation. Will we do it?

0

The Glory of the Lord!

ImageIn  John 1 the Apostle John  writes: We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth. Yesterday we noted that Philip said to Nathanael, “Come and See.” “When God gives us eyes to see the glory of Jesus—his beauty and greatness and worth—that seeing is the laser beam, as it were, along which great grace streams into our lives. Grace to love. Grace to rejoice. Grace to live forevermore.” [Piper] As we now move to view the first miracle we read again: 2:11 “Jesus did this as the first of his miraculous signs, in Cana of Galilee. In this way he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.”

The two incidents in this chapter, the water turned into wine and the cleansing of the Temple, point to the power and majesty and glory of Jesus that He chose to reveal at opportune moments for one reason: that they may see and recognize He is the prophesied Messiah, the glorious Son of God. Jesus is as JB noted: the Chosen One of God. He has been made manifest that we may see our depravity when we stand in his presence and desire and seek his holiness and righteousness. Come and See the Chosen One who took what was deficient and provided the ample. Come and See the Chosen One who took the defiled Temple and cleansed it for worship. Both are pictures of what he does for each of us personally. We who are deficient in our own capacity he fills with the new wine of his grace and provides us with his love and righteousness. Our temple is defiled but he cleanses it with his blood making us fit for heaven.

To the unbelieving he answers with a riddle/parable: “I speak to them in parables: Although they see they do not see, and although they hear they do not hear nor do they understand,” but with those whose heart and eyes see and believe, he shares his glory. The religious leaders see with their physical eyes but are spiritually blind to the Savior. Instead they seek more miraculous signs. Jesus responds “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” He did not say “I will destroy” but said  ““You” destroy”” thus prophesying of his death and resurrection. The contrast could not be more black and white. The religious leaders come and see but remain in their darkness while the people who are only bystanders come and see and their hearts and eyes are opened and believe.

There is another nugget of beauty hidden in this chapter which we might just readily pass over but it is the same word used three different times: “believed.” The word has the idea of entrusting, put faith in, conviction and trust, saving faith. When his glory was revealed to the religious leaders they sought a sign. When his glory was revealed to the disciples and the temple bystanders, they believed/trusted in/put their faith in him. Matthew uses the idea of the eye is the lamp of the body. If the eye, like the window into our soul, is covered with grime, our view is distorted, but if our eye is clear we can see what is revealed clearly. Where has Jesus revealed or made manifest to you what was previously unknown but now is clearly revealed, that is his glory, and how will you respond?  Jesus shared his glory with those whose hearts and eyes were open and ready.

Is your heart and eye open and ready this day to receive his glory?Image

0