John


John 3-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth

It’s difficult to communicate with people when we’re not on the same page as them, so to speak.  Our focus may be different, perhaps our understanding of the thing we’re discussing is not the same or maybe attitude is an issue.  Regardless of the cause, we’re well aware when we lack agreement and harmony in a dialogue.  In John 4, Jesus gave some powerful advice to the Samaritan woman about successful communication with our Father

@ John 4
The Samaritan woman at the well approached her conversation with Jesus with many issues regarding her race, her lifestyle and her worship. Jesus introduced her to the Living Water and answered her question about the proper place to worship with a powerful key to communicating with God. “The time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (23-24)

Jesus put to rest the dialogue about where to worship and focused on how to worship.  It was a new time, gone were the old traditions and typical ways of Old Testament worship, and now was the time for true worship – His coming changed everything!

Through the acceptance of Jesus and His salvation, we are no longer confined to a certain place or tradition of worship, but we have access to Him anywhere, any time because He is a Spirit who is everywhere all the time.  But how do we worship Him in spirit and in truth?

True worship is not done out of obligation or tradition, but it is offered out of sincerity and a genuine desire to express love and adoration for God – this is truth.  Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 15:8 when He quoted Isaiah regarding the Pharisees, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  Worship in truth comes from a heart so full of Him that there’s little room for anything else, when our lips express what is truly in our hearts.  At these moments of true worship we are not thinking in the back of our minds about the errands we need to run or the roast in the oven or the next appointment because our thoughts of Him have filled our hearts and minds.  It’s not as though we can fool Him.

“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:17)  My most genuine spirit worship comes when I worship Him for who He is in relationship to who I am not.  It’s difficult to worship Him for the immensity of His greatness and goodness when there’s even an ounce of pride in any great or good in me.  “Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.  You have done such wonderful things.  Who can compare with you, O God?” (Psalm 71:19)

When the magnitude of His greatness shakes me to my knees in humility and brokenness, my spirit, my inner man, can truly worship in spirit the God who is Spirit.  Same focus, same understanding, same attitude – on the same page, so to speak.

True worship is sincere, attentive, heart-felt and spirit-humbled communication with the Father that can take place anywhere and anytime because He is a Spirit who is everywhere all the time.  Because He has to look for it, apparently true worship isn’t something that flows easily from His children, “The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way,” (23)  Oh, that He will find in each one of us what He is looking for today! 

Moving Forward: I join with David, a true worshiper, and pray, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) 

Tomorrow @ I Timothy 1-3

John 1-2 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He became human and dwelt with us, revealing Himself to us

My mom was a personal soul winner like no one else I’ve ever known.  Although she was somewhat shy by nature, when it came to sharing her love for Jesus with others, she was fearless!  Her favorite tool was a small booklet of the Book of John, and I can’t even begin to number how many she gave out to those she had led to Lord.

Sometimes she would run out of her copies of John, but I can still hear her telling the new ones in the Lord, “Just read the Book of John! Read the Book of John because it will tell you all about Jesus.”  Mom loved this book because as a new Christian, before she found a church home or Christian friends, God directed her to read it.  Within the pages of John, she fell in love with her Savior, discovered her Shepherd and met the Great Physician.  Needless to say, the Book of John is a favorite of mine, too.

While the other gospels include wonderful, anointed biographies of the life and times of Jesus on earth, John’s approach in writing was different, more thematic.  Just as a lawyer systematically presents his argument to a jury, John gave a deliberate and methodical case for the deity and power of Jesus.  His closing argument, if you will, is found nearly at the end of John in chapter 20:30-31, “The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His name.”   Persuaded by the powerful words of John and our own undeniable experience, my mom and I accept the verdict – Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God!

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (1:1)  In our language of today, the term Word is an unusual way to begin a case for the deity of Christ, but in John’s day it was a term familiar to Jew and Greek alike.  To the Jew it was a term used for God; and to the Greek, Word was a term used to represent the current philosophy or reason of an expressed thought.  During the troubled times of persecution after the fall of Jerusalem, John was able to capture the attention of both the Jew and the Greek.

Similar to the Greeks, today much of the world’s thinking about God and His Son is ruled by philosophy and reason without faith – He was simply a good man or possibly a prophet. Just as my mom had discovered, the words of John along with the testimony of our personal acceptance of Him are powerful tools to convince the world that Jesus is the Son of God.

I love the unforgettable words from John – “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29), “For God so loved the world that He gave” (3:16), “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep” (10:11), “Now you are my friends (15:15), and so much more.  Just read the Book of John!  Read the Book of John because it will tell you all about Jesus. And we will read it.

Moving Forward:  I’m convinced, and willing to share with anyone who will listen, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Word, the Good Shepherd, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, the mighty Counselor, the Healer…and my friend. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Thessalonians

@John 14 

Discover His heart: “Let not your heart be troubled”

As we start the New Year tomorrow, many are hoping for better days ahead.  World conditions, economic woes and man’s lawlessness have threatened the security for many and have brought troubling concerns to our doorsteps.  Jesus understands the troubled heart.

@John 14
John 14 records the encouragement Jesus gave His disciples as they faced uncertainty and a troublesome future. Nothing could be any more encouraging to focus on today as we move ahead to another year than these words of Jesus, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (1)

Why should we not be troubled about the security of our future? Jesus made the following promises to those who love and trust in God:

  • Permanent Available Housing – “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” (2)  We are promised a permanent home, paid mortgage, situated in a desirable location.  I’ve heard told it resembles a mansion.
  • Job Security – “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (12) We will always have a job to do! And the benefits are out of this world!
  • Supernatural Assistance – “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (13) As we’re working, we have been promised supernatural assistance when we ask for help in His name and according to His will.
  • Free and Long-term Therapy/Counseling – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.”(16)  God has given us an advocate>a comforter>a counselor who is available throughout the day, who never goes on vacation and who is but a breath away at the midnight hour when we need it most.
  • Higher Education Opportunities – “[The Holy Spirit] will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”(26)  While our brains may seem incapable of learning absolutely everything, the Holy Spirit will teach us everything we really need to know to make it in this world, and then send reminders along the way.
  • A little peace of Heaven – “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”(27)  We can’t buy it, manufacture it, clone it or Google it.  This gift from Jesus is not of this world – calm, quiet, tranquility, harmony, serenity of mind and heart – His peace.

We can rest assured that we are not alone in the new year because we have this promise from Jesus, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (21)  So as we step into the new year and all the unknowns that come with it, don’t be troubled. Don’t be afraid. Our security is not of this world, and it will never fail us. 

Moving forward:  Thank you for joining me for devotions.  What a joy to study His Word with you!  I pray your life has been enriched by His great truths just as mine has been.  Tomorrow starts another year for me of reading through the Bible, cover to cover, from grace to grace, truth upon truth.  I can’t wait!

Tomorrow @ Romans 1-2

John 19-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He commissions and empowers us to be His witnesses

Who would have thought split pea soup would be the catalyst to lead someone to the Lord!  Back in grade school, when I was 7 years old, my best friend and her brother were over for lunch one day.  My mom had made split pea soup for us, not exactly kid food, and as she left the kitchen she cautioned, “Don’t add crackers to your soup or it will be too thick to eat.”

As we looked at our bowls of green goo in awe, we decided that crackers could only help the situation and started to crush many crackers into our soup and soon learned that mom was right.  We could have built a monument with the mortar that sat in front of us.  I started to cry just as she came back into the kitchen. Money was tight and this was wasteful.

Mom decided to use this situation to talk about obedience and pleasing the Lord.  At the time I really didn’t understand what came over me, but I started to sing an old hymn of the church, “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath the flood lose all their guilty stains.”  Well, at 7 years old I certainly did not understand all the theology behind that song and neither did my friends, but they started to weep and in a matter of moments they were repeating the sinner’s prayer.  Carol and Michael were the first souls I helped lead to the Lord, but it was the Holy Spirit that convicted them of sin. 

@ John 20
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (21-23)  When we read this scripture, it’s easy to get hung up on the question as to whether or not Jesus was saying that the disciples could forgive sin.  Unless they were the pure spotless Lamb of God and had sacrificed their lives on the cross for sin, absolutely not.  However, this was Part 1 of a Spirit-given commissioning for these new believers to present the Gospel, God’s terms for salvation, to the world.  Part 2 followed in Acts 2 when they received the power of the Holy Spirit, the dunamis, the dynamite explosion to be His witnesses.

Jesus wanted His disciples to know that they were not alone in presenting their message because the convicter, the convincer of sin, the Holy Spirit would be with them. “[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” (16:8)  The Holy Spirit is the great evangelist, and we are His voice.  Understanding this truth should remove anxiety and apprehension from sharing the Gospel with others.

The Holy Spirit convicted my friends of their sinful nature because that is His job.  Having already received the Lord as my Savior, I had been commissioned by the Lord through the Holy Spirit to bring others to Christ, and it was so very easy because He did all the work.  I mean, if at 7 years old I could be used in this way, what is my excuse today?  We are His voice, and when we do our job in obedience, He is right there with us doing His job! 

Moving Forward: I pray that I will never let doubt and apprehension diminish the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to Christ.  When I share the goodness of God and the salvation He has given through His Son, I am partnering with the Great Evangelist!

Tomorrow @ Hebrews 1- 4

John 16-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is praying for us

I can’t begin to imagine how strange it would feel to find out that the leader of my nation was thinking about me right now, talking with his staff about my life and possibly about the challenges I’m facing.  Of course, the leaders of most countries have a general concern for the welfare of their constituents, the people who vote for them, but I’m talking about my leader zeroing in on little old me with his thoughts and concerns.  For this, my friends, I am not holding my breath, but it’s a fascinating notion.  It would be humbling, and actually frightening, to think that anyone with power and prestige would focus on me.  However… 

@ John 17
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (20-21)  Forget presidents and powerful leaders! This is astounding to me! Jesus, the Son of God, present at creation, seated at the right hand of God the Father is thinking about me, and He is praying for me.  He is concerned about my welfare – and He is someone who can actually do something about it.

In His prayer, Jesus first prayed for His disciples who had followed Him while He was on earth, but added, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me.”  As His followers and disciples today, we, too, are included in His prayer.  The prayer Jesus offered to God for us in Chapter 17 was not a multipurpose “God bless, so and so,” etc.  No, He had specific requests in mind.

Jesus prayed for our protection.  “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” (14-16)  What in this world do we have to fear with Jesus praying for our protection?

Jesus prayed for holiness.  “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” (17-19) Jesus paid a great price for our holiness.  How could we ever trade it or dirty it for the pleasures of this world?  His truth sets us free from all that.

Jesus prayed for our unity. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (22-23)  He has given us the glory of God, the revelation of who God is, by revealing Himself to us.  This is our common bond, our unity.

As the body of Christ, we may differ in style of worship or formality, but we should let nothing we do hinder or damage our message of Christ crucified so that the world will know that God loves them.  How could we do anything to impede God’s perfect plan to save a lost world?

Jesus is praying for us!  “Sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34)   “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  No matter what we’re facing today, perhaps feeling like no one cares enough to even pray for us, we can be assured that Jesus cares.  He is thinking about us, talking to God about us, zeroing in on us and praying for us.  So very humbling. 

Moving Forward:  One of my favorite songs, “He’s ever interceding to the Father for His children…Through Him you can reach the Father so bring Him all your heavy burdens…” (C. Gillman) 

Tomorrow @ Philemon

John 13-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He considers us His friends.

What would we do without our friends?  We share just about everything with them, confide in them and trust them to keep it close.  I would hardly go to a stranger at the grocery store and tell personal information about myself, although I have to admit I’ve had many strangers share more than the basic communication with me at the store. I’ve decided I must have a very generic face and strangers feel they know me, or perhaps the Lord is setting up opportunities to share His love.  Either way, His love and truth are shared.

But with our good friends, we share all the extremes of our lives as well as the mundane little things that only our good friends would care about.  Sometimes we share information on our social networks that good friends are hungry to read but casual friends really don’t care about, and that’s okay.  We have buttons to handle that for us, like Ignore, Delete, Hide…oops, too much information. 

@ John 15
One of the most humbling days of my life was when, as a teenager, I read and understood the weight of John 15:14-15, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves.  Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”  In my mind, I am His servant, but in His mind, I am His friend.  Because of the intimate things about Himself that He has shared with us in His Word and in our hearts, He could only be our friend.  This is NOT grocery store-sharing kind of stuff.  He has shared everything His Father has told Him – amazing!  This is an intimate relationship like none other.

Of course, the if clause is included in our friendship with the Lord, but it has nothing to do with His love for us because that is unconditional. However, if we want to be His friend, there is a condition to be met. “You are my friends if you do what I command… You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit…” (14,16)  We read in I John 4:14 that He loved us first and died for us (John 3:16), and this is what makes our friendship possible – He chose us.

We either accept or reject His offer of salvation, friendship and all that goes with it, and with our acceptance comes responsibility, as with any good friendship.  Our obedience to the Lord keeps that friendship alive as does our commitment to cultivate it through our love for one another. “This is my command:  Love each other.” (17)   If we’re going to be intimate friends with the Lord, we want to love and appreciate all His other friends as well, and, thankfully, God will help us do that. Friends forever!

The realization that Jesus is my friend has carried me through moments when earthly friends were not close by me, and when without Him, I would have felt so very alone.  When my friends are in need, I drop everything else to help them, and my friend Jesus is even more available to me than that.  He’s as close as the mention of His name.  I listen to the advice my friends give because I know they have my best interests at heart.  Even more so, my friend Jesus gives only the very best advice and direction for my life and He can be trusted.

Moving Forward:  I am a servant of God, willing to do all that He commands, but I know that I’m also His friend.  I want to be the best friend I can possibly be.

Tomorrow @ Titus

John 10-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has provided the gateway into His presence

Even though the wonderful relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep expressed in Psalm 23 needs no affirmation, John 10 does just that.  David explained that relationship from the viewpoint of a sheep, and Jesus confirmed it from the viewpoint of the Shepherd.  I can’t help but give pause to John 10.  Here’s an excerpt from Intimate Moments with the Shepherd, Chapter 48, a visual impression from the Lord entitled,“The Gatekeeper.”

Night was advancing across the countryside as the sheep rushed past the Shepherd to the fold, tired and ready for rest.  As the Shepherd approached the fold, He found a bottleneck at the somewhat narrow gate as the sheep pushed and jostled to move through it.  The Shepherd moved to the middle of the gateway and stood, allowing the sheep to pass one by one on either of Him safely into the fold.

Although it would seem that His position at the gate would narrow the passageway even further, it actually brought order and safety to the flock.  As the sheep passed by Him one by one, the Shepherd, knowing each name as He did, was able to see who was there and who was not.

Why not have many gates and avoid all this chaos?  More sheep could enter more quickly and rest would come all the sooner to the weary flock. “‘I assure you, I am the gate for the sheep,’ [Jesus] said.” (John 10:7)  Why is the gate so narrow?  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13)  Why is there only one way into heaven?  Wouldn’t a loving God want everyone there?  “All others who came before me were thieves and robbers.   But the true sheep did not listen to them.  Yes I am the gate.  Those who come through me will be saved.” (John 10:8-9)  “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

None of our questions will change the facts.  The Lord our Shepherd is the only gateway into eternity with God and He was chosen by God to fulfill this role.  God, our creator, overflowing with great love for His lost creation, sent His Son, the only part of Him that our finite minds could ever understand, to be our gateway to Him.  All that is required of us is to accept this Savior and to follow Him to His Father.

Any other gate would be an insult and a mockery of God’s sacrificial gift to us.  “There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.  However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:4-7)  Paul, not known to mince words, laid it out plainly in this passage. An individual who believes someone or something created life other than God may take exception to this declaration.  Unfortunately, eternity will clear that up one day should that mindset continue.

Order was not the only benefit given to the flock by the Shepherd positioned as the gate.  Their Shepherd was a very personal shepherd, and He knew each one by name.  Because of this familiarity, the Shepherd would know immediately if one had failed to pass by Him, and He would search for the missing sheep.

Our God knows us by name, as well.  In fact, His knowledge of us is so personal that He actually has numbered the hairs on our head. (Matthew 10:30)  For those who are hair challenged this may not be such a big deal, but for most of us, it screams intimacy—intimacy with our Creator.  Although He will not force our devotion, He will pursue us and abundantly fill us with His love.  Bless the Gatekeeper!

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful for my intimate relationship with the Shepherd today.  I know Him and He knows me…intimate moments. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Timothy 3-4