Monday, January 23, 2012


John 11: 41-42            So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  

The Scriptures record four resurrections from the dead. Yes, four specific events. The first is in Luke 7:15 where Jesus raises the Widow’s son from the dead. The second is Luke 8:53 where Jarius’ daughter is brought back to life. Scripture also reveals that more people were raised from the dead by both Jesus and his disciples. In Matthew 10:8 we see Jesus giving resurrection powers to the twelve disciples. And in Matthew 11:4, Jesus informs the John the Baptist’s followers that both He and the twelve were raising the dead. The fourth resurrection, the greatest resurrection, is that of Jesus himself by Himself.

In this event, Jesus allows himself to be caught up in the grief that Mary, Martha and the others felt. As the Son of God he does not come to redeem the world from some imaginary grief. Neither does he minimize the grief that we feel when someone close to us dies. His arrival, although delayed, is never too late.

Jesus never intended that our faith be a “miracle faith”. He did not intend that we think that the more a person believes in what God in his omnipotence can do, the greater the hold we have on that omnipotence or the more it is at our disposal. Jesus is not a “Genie in a bottle.” As the story ends with the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection, Jesus leaves us with the knowledge that all he does is in agreement with the Father’s will. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012


John 9:30-33      The formerly blind man answered the Pharisees, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could no nothing.”

The miracle was performed by Jesus on a man born blind. The man was then seen by neighbors, family and others in the area. He was brought before the Pharisees to be investigated. They were agitated by the fact that this miracle happened on the Sabbath. They demanded to know who performed the miracle. Some questioned whether he was even born blind. They called in his parents to question them. Nothing would convince them that the man had been healed of blindness. The man’s insistence on the truth of the events led the Pharisees to throw him out of their synagogue.

After his expulsion, the man is confronted again by Jesus. Jesus wants the miracle understood within the context of his mission. He wants the man to be conscious of the greater things to which the miracle points. Jesus wants to place him in a permanent, personal relationship of faith to himself.

Look at the contrast between this man who believed in the Son of Man and the responses of the Scripture-trained Pharisees. Judgment has come. The dividing-line is between those who see Jesus for who he is and those who are blind to him. The people in this story place themselves on one side or the other by how they react to the truth, to Jesus’ miracle. Judgment is not reason Christ came into the world but the effect of his coming.

“Not seeing” describes the general state of a person before the light of the world has illuminated him or her. The way to the light is open to all. Those who do not “see” are those who imagine that they can see. They “become blind”. Their “not seeing” becomes their inability to see. The result is they place themselves under judgment.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


John 8:31-33      To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

There are many who believe in Jesus and hold to another set of beliefs. It can happen in churches where people have created rules for members to follow so they do not fall under the world’s influences in a particular time or place. After time passes and society changes, these rules remain and take on greater importance. Some call these rules “traditions”, “the way things have always been”. This problem faced Jesus and continues to trouble the church today.

Being able to link your family tree back to Abraham was important to the Jews. It documented the fact they were the people of God and children of the covenant. They believed this lineage alone made them recipients of the promises God made to Abraham and his descendants. But Jesus says that holding to His teaching will reveal to them the truth and that then they would be set free. They protest the fact that as covenant children and Abraham’s descendants they have never been enslaved. They already had a spiritual superiority as children of Abraham and were therefore exempt from any servant relationship to others.

 The truth Jesus speaks is about himself. It is salvific truth. It is truth that saves. Jesus speaks truth that is liberating to those who are enslaved. The freedom he speaks of “is not that of a person to manage his life free of all the ties that might hinder him in the development of his own identity or authority”. Rather, Jesus is referring to “a freedom that a person does not possess within himself, even if he thinks otherwise and attempts to live by that illusion.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, pg. 308)

People are ready to accept Jesus’ teaching as long as it is teachings about God and fits into their own understanding or framework of beliefs. Jesus does not permit this. Jesus makes our freedom contingent on faith in him. It is this boundary that Jesus establishes that many refuse to cross over. 

Friday, January 20, 2012


John 8:3-5        The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

I had a cat named Sprinkles when I was growing up. One summer day she came in the back door, it was always ajar so she could come and go. Mom was at the sink washing dishes and felt Sprinkles rub up against her leg. Mom ignored her, keeping to her dish washing. A few moments later Sprinkles meowed loudly. Mom looked down to see Sprinkles sitting proudly next to her, with a dead blue-jay between her paws. Sprinkles’ was quite pleased and satisfied with her accomplishment. A dead bird was what all cats live for, right? And who better to share this accomplishment with than her master. Mom, not really impressed, quickly ushered them both outside.

The woman in our story was caught red-handed in the act. The Pharisees knew they had a real sinner in their hands. It was their job to monitor the religious adherence of the people and to root out evil wherever it arose. So when they brought her to Jesus, they were looking to see if he would flinch. They were satisfied with the dilemma Jesus would be in.  Would he agree with their assessment that the Law required her to be  stoned to death? Or would Jesus ignore the Law and do something else with her? They peppered Jesus with more questions as to the best way to handle this situation. If they could find a flaw in Jesus’ response, they would do the same to him as they were about to do to her. They were pleased with themselves in rooting out this evil woman. The punishment for her was clear in the Law and they were ready to carry it out.

Jesus knew the Law’s punishment for adultery, too. But Jesus knew one thing about the Pharisees that they failed to recognize about themselves. They too were sinners deserving of the same punishment. Jesus did not come to punish the world for their sins. He came to forgive the sinners of their sin. Who can appreciate Jesus as Savior but the one who recognizes their own sin and their own need for forgiveness? With one sentence Jesus ends their plan and in another sentence reveals his own. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012


John 7: 40-43     On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Christ.” Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.

I hope it is not a surprise to you that so many people today struggle to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. When confronted with the words that Jesus spoke then and now, people are amazed. His claims are not that of other men who have come to prominence over the decades and millenniums. Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus’ words are spoken large crowds will gather to listen. In time only a few remain who believe what he says. Even fewer actually obey his commands. Few live their lives according to his standards. Fewer still speak to others about the monumental changes that occur in them and their lives after they believed.

Those who believe in Jesus understand that the misconceptions, doubts, and opposition from the crowds are normal now as they were then. Jesus himself was understood by some and rejected by others. Those who rejected him should have known better. The Jews were prolific students of the Old Testament: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. They believed they were God’s people. Yet with the knowledge they had, they failed to see and hear Jesus.

Jesus sets himself as the one who knows God and if they knew him, they would know the Father who sent him. In sending his Son, God was revealing himself to them and making himself known as he really was. Because of this, Jesus’ verdict (“him you do not know” vs.28) is not the closing of a door to God. Rather it is an all-or-nothing call to them to come to the true knowledge of that God whose people they claimed to be and whom they claim to know. Jesus calls them to believe in God in the sense of opening themselves to his gracious disposition that prompted him to send his Son into the world.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


John 15:5        I AM the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

When we get sick we go to a doctor to get relief from the illness. He will examine our condition and then prescribe a medication for us to take. The medicine is taken for several days and before long we are recovered. We don’t revisit the doctor again until there is a recurrence or the initial illness does not go away. Most people do not regularly visit the doctor for preventative treatments. Yes, we might go once a year for a check-up, but even that is rare for most. Never do we go each day to the doctor for preventative treatment, unless of course you are a hypochondriac.

The Great Physician, Jesus, tells us we are to remain with him each day. Unless we are in Him daily we are not truly his child, nor can we be assured of a healthy Christian life. Unlike our medical doctor, daily doses of Jesus are a must. They are not just to prevent our sinful nature from taking over us, but daily time with Jesus ensures that we receive the nourishment that we need to grow as he chooses.

Ten times Jesus tells us to “remain” in this teaching. If we remain in Him, he will remain in us. As a branch can only bear fruit if it remains in the vine, our lives cannot bear godly fruit unless we remain in Jesus. He promises that if we remain in him we will bear much fruit. Apart from remaining in Jesus our lives will be a wasted branch that is good for nothing. As we remain in Jesus and his words remain in us we can ask him whatever we wish and it will be given to us. (Of course, remaining in him will change the things that we ask him for!) Lastly, he says we are to remain in his love. We can remain in his love by obeying his commands, just like He remains in the Father’s love by obeying. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


John 5:6-7      Jesus asked the invalid, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

  Jesus heals a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. No one today can imagine the suffering he experienced back then when the options for assistance were very few. If he lived today it would be different, right? Today such a person could reach out to many different agencies in a community for help. He could call the government, too, and find a department that could help. He might even call a church or para-church ministry that could show him love, compassion and care.

The miracle Jesus performs is astounding. In the midst of a crowd of disabled people – the blind, the lame and the paralyzed – Jesus asks him if he wants to get well. What a startling question given the situation of this man and the others around him. They were next to the healing waters of the pool. They wanted to get healed or they wanted to beg for alms.

The man answers and Jesus, without hesitation, commands him to pick up his mat and walk. He does as Jesus says, he is healed. What a wonderful event for this man and for all the others to see. Someone cares, someone can meet their need.

Contrast this miraculous event and Jesus’ question with the words of the Jews who were there and asked the healed man why he was breaking the Sabbath laws by carrying his mat. Jesus is greater than the Old Testament laws, in fact he fulfills them in this event. Their adherence to the law has blind the Jews to the needs of the lame and the poor. Ritual trumps human suffering, in Jesus’ day and today. Despite the concern for following the rules and regulations, Jesus remains Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus can alter the Sabbath, suspend it, or remove as He chooses. He is God. This is His claim.

Jesus is Lord of your Sabbaths, your habits, your aspirations, your abilities, your life. For us at times it is much nicer to amass enough human credits to show Jesus than to allow Jesus to manifest himself in our lives. The Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives is Christianity. Anything short of that is only religion.

Monday, January 9, 2012


John 4:23            Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  

The passage opens with Jesus seeking a favor on the human level and closes with a supreme claim of Messiahship on the spiritual level.

Jesus begins with a natural need. Water is integral for life. But the human barriers of prejudice directed the woman in her initial response. Jesus was a Jew and Jews don’t associate with certain people. Jesus ignores the customs of not associating with Samaritans. Jesus raises her interest by offering to give her living water that will bubble up within her. She knew that he had no bucket to draw water, but she wanted this living water.

Jesus said that first you must get your husband, implying the water would come next. Jesus brings the issue to the spiritual level. Was she thirsty? She had five husbands and now has a sixth man. How disillusioned she was, how disappointed she was, how restless she was. Could this water satisfy me? Her spirit thirsted for love. The offer by Christ had gotten her attention. He knew her past. But in order to receive living water she needed to confess her past.

She tried to throw him off course with a discussion of worship and its proper place. Jesus brushed away Jerusalem and the mountain. Worship would be in the temple of the individual. In spirit and in truth would the true worshipers worship God. She listened and returned to town. “Could this be the Messiah?” she exclaimed to the people.

Jesus crossed the boundary of prejudice. He left the region of people who boasted in their privilege. In the regions beyond he found a human soul, a sinning woman, who had burned through her life and relationships until only ashes remained. Jesus opened to her the way to God and to personal fulfillment. He opened the door to true worship by first dealing with her moral nature (sin) and by satisfying her spiritual thirst. To Jesus the fields were ripe for harvest. This is the Messiah, the Savior of the World.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


John 3:16        For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

This must be the most quoted and memorized verse in all of the New Testament. The mission of Jesus Christ, the nature of God, the need of man and the avenue to life are summed up here. In this verse we  the intent and purpose of John’s Gospel.

Christ’s mission is to bring about the will of the Father. His mission is not to amaze us with miracles, meet our material needs or cure us of all diseases. No, his mission is to bring into the world a salvation for mankind’s greatest problem, sin. His short life is the offering of a final sacrifice or payment for the penalty of our sins. Once completed, he would accomplish the goal set by the father and distribute that accomplishment to people throughout the world and throughout every generation.

God is love. Over the centuries people have rejected the God of the Bible because of the history of war and slaughter found in the Old Testament. They have read limited portions of Scripture and have drawn their own conclusions about God. Looking at the suffering and evil in the world they have deduced that a God who would allow such suffering was not worthy of their worship or obedience. But God gave of himself in order that the evil and sin within a person could be forgiven and that the everlasting life we each will share would be one with him and not one in hell.

Many a mistake a man makes. Sin is the root of all our struggles in life. It causes us to do the things we do not want to do and prohibits us from doing the things we should do. What a woeful state we find ourselves in. We cannot educate ourselves out of sin. We cannot obey our way around sin. We cannot talk our way into goodness. The bottom line, we are slaves to sin.

The road to life is found through faith in the One God has sent. Faith and trust in Jesus Christ is our road to recovery. God loved us enough to send the best. Whoever believes in him is not condemned. Whoever lives by this truth comes into the light and sees plainly that what has been done in them has been done through God.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


John 2:9          The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

 Don’t misunderstand Jesus’ mission. Although he agreed to his mother’s request to meet the needs of the guests at the banquet, he had not come into the world for such times or needs. It was not for this purpose that he had come. We are not to misunderstand this display of the miraculous.

Jesus is not a miracle maker, although his accomplishments were miraculous to those who saw what he did. He never cured the world of disease nor created the resources to end poverty or hunger. As the Son of God he could have done this. But that was not his mission. As the Son of God, the miraculous and the unbelievable were normal. They were abilities he certainly had as God’s Son. But it was not his purpose for being in the world to display these raw talents. Miracles were not clearest expression of his mission nor his obedience to God.    

Many have discounted this miracle and the others he performed. Jesus was not the greatest magician. There was no sleight of hand, illusion or distraction that preceded this miracle. No one switched the jars of water with jars of wine. Jesus is not the forerunner to Houdini. Jesus is not merely available for special occasions only. He is not the “go to man” when times are tough. When we have gotten ourselves into trouble from poor choices and bad behavior, it’s not his job to fix all our problems although he could.

Sure, you could change water and grapes into wine by the process known for centuries. But you could never be able to do it in the manner and with the immediate speed in which he accomplished the task. It is not within our powers to do what he has done. It’s not within our power to do what only God can do for us today. Nothing he did is within our nature to accomplish. Bringing someone back to life is just not possible for us any more than turning water into wine.

The miracles he performed were signs that pointed to his person and revealed the power and truth that were in him. They elicited the response that John reports in verse 11, “He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


John 1:35-51  Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

“When E. F. Hutton speaks, everyone listens”. If you are not familiar with that commercial line, then you are not even close to my age! God spoke and the world was created. Satan lied and humanity was cursed.  Martha complained and Mary listened. The Judged fumed while the old woman railed. A Donkey spoke and a Prophet was saved, (Numbers 22:4-20; 2 Peter 2:16).  Jesus speaks and people follow.

Some of the people that followed Christ were approached by him directly. When he called out to them, they recognized him as a Rabbi, and followed him. Other people were brought to Christ by someone who had seen and heard him speak. People connect what they saw and what they heard in Christ as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. John the Baptist knew Jesus was coming before he arrived. The Book of Isaiah gives clear teaching about the coming of Messiah and the events to precede and accompany his arrival, see Isaiah 40:1-11.

He was told to baptize Jesus when Christ came to the Jordan River. There John heard the voice of God proclaim his approval of Jesus, his Son and our Messiah. God spoke, John listened. Jesus is speaking, are you listening?

Monday, January 2, 2012


John 1:1-2       In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.    

          The opening eighteen verses of John’s Gospel is called the Prologue. It is here that he establishes the person of Christ as both divine and human. He lays out his argument in such a way that by the end of this beginning prologue, we know that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.
The opening verse of this Gospel sounds like the opening verse of Genesis, “In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1). It is for good reason that John draws us back to Genesis, the beginning of creation and of mankind. In Genesis, the world was formless, dark and void. In Jesus’ day, as so today, the lives of sinful men and women places them in darkness and without true meaning for life. They are void of the joy and hope that lies deep within the heart of every Christian. But the dawn of creation, a new creation is on the horizon.
John says that “The Word” existed in the beginning. The pronoun “He” of the second sentence makes clear that “The Word” is a person, not an object, idea or some other creation. In verse fourteen we see that a person, The Word, became flesh and lived among us. He came from God the Father in heaven. In verses 17-18 he says that Jesus Christ is The Word, the deliverer of grace and truth and the one who reveals the true nature of our Father in heaven.
            From beginning to end, and from the end to the beginning, we are told in John’s Gospel that Jesus Christ is the God-Man, the only Son of the Father and the Savior of the world. May His glory and truth bring joy and hope to you.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Everything Begins With God

 Genesis 1:1      In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Before you go any further you will need to answer one question. Do you believe in God? For many people this is an easy yes answer. Many surveys of Americans will reveal that the great majority, over 90% of the people surveyed believe in God. The obvious follow up question should be: Do you believe in the God depicted in the Christian Bible? This question will begin to make many people nervous. For if their understanding and belief in God is based on something other than the Bible, then their belief is already flawed and their picture of God is distorted and their basis for life is a dangerous mirage.

As you begin with Genesis you must wrestle with the God depicted from the outset. All the stories of Genesis, and for that matter throughout Scripture, can only be properly read and understood with a correct view and belief in the God. Any god, spirit or eternal force that is not described in Scripture is a false and tenuous god. A life built on a false understanding of God and the stories or teachings of Scripture leave the reader without a correct understanding and belief system for their lives, relationships and future destiny.

God created all the reality you and I experience. Astronomy, medicine, technology, capitalism, governments and people derive their existence from God’s creative actions in the beginning. People dedicated to the understanding of life continue to seek answers apart from God’s account of things in Scripture. All wealth, nations, languages, knowledge and progress comes from Him and is allowed by Him as the originator or creator of all things.

As you continue to study Scripture recognize the fact that the entire Bible is intended to communicate knowledge to you about God himself and knowledge about you. Genesis begins this education by showing us our appropriate position related to Him and to our studies. You are the creature and He is the creator. From this perspective begins the journey of understanding and knowing the one true God, Jehovah, of the Christian Bible.


 John 20:30-31       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.

I know a friend who picks up a good mystery book and starts by reading the last several chapters of the book. He tells me that he wants to know the ending so that he can have a better sense and context of the story as he reads from the beginning. For some people and for some books this may be the best approach. But as to mystery books, I just assume start at the beginning. A surprise ending is just fine with me.

Now when we turn to reading the Bible, my friend’s approach to beginning with the ending comes in handy. The Gospel of John, like many other books of the Bible, as a central purpose or theme for the book. Each of the four gospel accounts of Jesus’s life are written by different men. Each has a different background, upbringing and cultural understanding. Their unique personhood influences the approach they take in tell us about Jesus Christ. They each understand Jesus’s message and each focuses on a different way of presenting his story.

As we see at the end of John’s Gospel, John is writing in order to present the unique and miraculous happenings that surrounded his ministry in the world. Jesus performed many miracles of healing, feeding and foretelling his end that John recounts.

As you begin this Gospel, keep in mind John’s purpose in writing. His goal is for you to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life eternal. Also, remember that for over 2,000 years people the world over have read this book and have come to the same conclusion as John. May God help you to know Him, too.

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