Wednesday, 31 October 2012

What in the world?

While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, - John 12.36-37
An awful lot was going on here and it was happening far too fast for everyone to keep up with. These were the last days and Jesus was doing all He could to get the message out before He was gone. He told the people once again that He was light, the only light to eternal life.

But then He departed. There was more to do before the crucifixion.

Those who were left behind had seen His miracles. They knew He had raised the dead. They had heard Him speak personally. They had seen signs and wonders.

‘But although He had done many signs before them, they did not believe Him.’

We might look back at this with incredulity. ‘How could these idiots have not believed? Were they blind? How stupid could they be? They saw and heard Jesus do all kinds of wonders and miracles and still the could not believe? Huh? What in the world?’

But then I have to stop and quit trying to dig out specks and deal with the beam. I miss the obvious.

For nearly four decades now I have watched God work in my life. I have seen Him save me. I have seen Him provide and sustain and meet needs and heal and bless and take care and give peace and do miracles and, well, you get the idea.

And still, after all this time, when a new challenge or issue arises I can be gripped by fear or anxiety and wonder if this one is going to be too tough for God. After all that I have seen Him do, I still do not believe Him to do the next thing.

What in the world?

Lord, I really do believe. Please help my unbelief. 

P.S. I have to explain my title. We have a German friend going to school here and staying with us for a few months. He has apparently picked up the phrase 'what in the world' from us and we are constantly joking they way he says it with his German accent. So this title is dedicated to Alex :-) 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

This is the cause

"Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. – John 12.27

Right after the visit by the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus He began a discourse. They may or may not have been there. He starts by saying ‘my hour has now come.’ At least once in the past He had said ‘my hour has not yet come’ but now He says that it is time.  

He speaks of the death, burial, and resurrection. He talks about how life only comes though death. He talks about the cost of following Him.

But then He gets to an intriguing statement. ‘My soul is troubled, but what can I say ‘Father, save me from this hour? No, because this is the reason I came to this hour.’

This gives us such a tender picture of Jesus. I don’t think I will ever fully understand how Jesus could be all man and all God, but He was. He knew what was coming. He knew the agony and shame He was about to face. His soul wanted to ask God to let Him be delivered from what was about to come.

But this was why He came – for this hour. He came to die to give us life. That was the purpose. So He laid down His life for us and moved on.

He would experience the same feelings in the garden, but He said ‘not my will, but God’s will be done.’

He willingly, knowingly, understandingly went to His death for us.

Greater love has no man that this. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

We would see Jesus

Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." – John 12.20-21

This is another one of those interesting little stories of scripture. Here we have a number of Greeks who came to worship at the Passover feast. The Pharisees were already getting worried about Jesus. We see that in verse 19 when they bemoaned the fact that their best efforts were doing nothing to stop Jesus – ‘the whole world is going after Him.’ Now these Greeks show up as if to evidence that fact.

It is hard to know exactly who these Greeks were. They at least had in interest in their Jewish neighbours. There was a Greek settlement not too far from Bethsaida, so perhaps they knew or knew of Philip so they came to him.

‘We want to see Jesus’ they said.

Philip went and got Andrew and the two of them took the request to Jesus. And then, well, we don’t know what happened. We don’t know if the Greeks got to spend time with Jesus. The next we read is that Jesus began one of His final discourses.

Maybe we don’t know because we don’t need to know. But I think we can take something from this.

The Greeks came because there was something that drew them to this Jewish teacher. There was something that made them want to know more.

When Paul preached on Mars Hill some of the hearers said that they wanted to hear more about Jesus.

I have to ask myself today about my life – ‘is there anything about me and my life and my testimony that would make anyone say ‘I want to know more about Jesus?’ 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

On a donkey

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: "Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' The King of Israel!" Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: - John 12.12-14

If you tried to imagine the Great Messiah and Deliverer arriving to free Israel from the clutches of Rome I would guess it would be nothing like what happened in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, We would expect a great conqueror to lead a mighty army though the gates and vanquish the enemy.

The Jews might have figured that we well, but most of them would have known that their Messiah would enter the city on the back of a donkey, but once He was there He would set about delivering them from their oppressors.

I really like the picture here. Jesus didn’t have to enter the city in a charger leading a mighty army. It seems to fit with the Philippians passage that talks about He did not consider His God-hood something He had to cling on to. Instead He entered the world like a servant in meekness and humility. 

Jesus entered Jerusalem just like He enters our heart, not with lights and noise and fanfare, but quietly and meekly. The Jews of Jerusalem welcomed him falsely. They would turn on Him in just a few days.

What do we do with Jesus when He enters our lives? Do we let Him take control, or do we reject His rule in our lives when He doesn’t do the things we think He should do.

Let’s make sure we give Jesus free reign to do things His way, not ours.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The poor will be with you

Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always." – John 12.1-8

If we don’t take the context into account we might get the wrong idea about what Jesus is saying here. It was coming up to Passover. Jesus time on earth was limited, only a few days were left. He went to his friends’ house where Martha (of course) served dinner. Lazarus was there as well. Mary came up and anointed Jesus’ feet with very expensive oil. Her act was one of veneration. She was acknowledging who Jesus was. The fragrance of the oil filled the house.

Judas Iscariot was keeping the money bag and seemed appalled. ‘Why is she doing that? We could have sold that and given the money to the poor!’

Good point, right? And then Jesus said ‘Leave her alone. She is doing this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor to take care of, but I am leaving soon.’

Except for one little point we might think this very hard and calloused of Jesus. That point is the real reason Judas said this.

He said what he said ‘not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and he kept the money box, and he used to take what was in it.’

Judas didn’t care at all about the poor. He was the ultimate hypocrite. All he saw was money he could have stolen being wasted on Jesus’ feet.

It is obvious Jesus cared for the poor. Our responsibility to care for the poor is given all throughout the word of God. It is a priority for us.

I think another point here though is that we must balance our work for the poor with our worship of Christ. We should never do one to the exclusion of the other. Mary's act was one of worship. We cannot afford to leave that undone while feeding the poor. 

One more little thing before I close – Jesus was right. We still have the poor with us. What are we doing for them today? 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Not for that nation only

nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.  – John 11.50-52

This is an amazingly intriguing little passage of scripture. It involves a group of Jews plotting what to do about Jesus. We know that there was a small pro-Jesus party of which Nicodemus was a member. The miracles of Christ were starting to worry some of the Jews because they felt like if the continued Rome would crack down on them and take away what liberties they had.

Caiaphas was a leading Jewish prophet who met with other Jews to try and deal with the Jesus issue. He came up with what he thought was a brilliant solution. He decided that they needed to find a way to kill Jesus because it is handier for one man to die, than for the entire nation to suffer.

Besides, he said he had a prophecy that Jesus would die for the nation and that He would ‘gather together in one all the children of God who were scattered abroad.’  The Bible even lets us know that the prophecy was from God, not in his own authority.

From this point on things are set in motion for Jesus’ death. It wouldn’t make any sense but for the fact that Jesus told us earlier that He was going to lay down His life. Caiaphas and the others would have had no power to do this if it wasn’t part of Jesus’ plan as revealed by the Father.

That alone is amazing stuff. Just as amazing I think is the fact that we see revealed here that Jesus’ death would not only deliver the Jews, but that His death was for more than just the Jewish nation. He died to gather people from all the nations of the earth.

Poor old Caiaphas never knew what a marvellous truth he was prophesying. All he wanted to do was get Jesus out of the way to placate Rome.

God was in control – even in what must have seemed like the darkest days. He still is. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

He that was dead

Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go." – John 11.43-44

I realise that I have talked a lot about the idea of resurrection and life and things like that. I really don’t think, however, that we can talk about those things too much.

Here is the actual account of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. He waited until Lazarus was dead to come in order to show His power over death. He waited four days so that there could be no doubt that Lazarus was really dead. By the time Jesus got there Lazarus was wrapped in burial clothes and placed on the tomb. There was no doubt he was dead. When Jesus asked them to roll away the stone that covered the tomb the people didn’t want to because he had been dead so long that Lazarus body would be stinking by now.

But Jesus told them to roll the stone away. Then He stood at the entrance to the grave and simple said ‘Lazarus come forth!’

Lazarus came out, shuffling forth bound in his grave clothes.

Jesus next words were ‘loose him and let him go' and Lazarus walked free and alive. 

While this amazing miracle stands well on its own, I also think it is a picture of a great spiritual truth.

For the first 18 ½ years of my life I was spiritually a dead man. I was bound with the grave clothes of sin. My life was slowly, but surely rotting away.

But that changed in February 1974. When I put my faith in Christ He said, in essence, ‘Roger come forth.’ From that moment on, I had spiritual life that would last forever. At that moment I was loosed from the grave clothes of sin as sin lost its power over.

Just one small point in closing – having been free from those grave clothes why am I so ready to put them back on? 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Jesus wept

Jesus wept - John 11.35

This, of course, is the shortest verse in the English Bible. I realise that verse and chapter divisions are arbitrary and man-made, but I like the fact that one verse is dedicated to this little tiny phrase.

The words are ‘Jesus wept.’

Now there is a lot of debate about why Jesus wept. Did He weep because it took so much teaching for Martha to understand what was going on? Did He weep because there was so much sorrow? Or did He weep at the loss of a friend?

I don’t really know. It is enough for me that Jesus did indeed weep. It is enough that Jesus shed tears, not only here but in a couple of other places.

‘Jesus wept.’

I grew up in a time when sayings like ‘real men don’t cry’ and ‘crying is for sissies’ we common even in Christian circles. Dads didn’t want their sons to be ‘cry-babies.’ Crying was for the weak.

I don’t know how all those Christian men said that and missed this.

‘Jesus wept.’

Crying is for sissies? Real men don’t cry?

Oh yeah? 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I am the resurrection and the life

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"  - John 11.25-26

Here we have yet another of Jesus’ ‘I am’ statements. The setting is a tragic one. His friend Lazarus is dead and Lazarus’ sister Martha seems a little miffed that Jesus didn’t show up in time to heal Lazarus before he died.

Jesus tried to reassure her – ‘your brother will live again.’

Martha knew her Bible – ‘I know he will rise again at the last day Lord.’

But then Jesus responds with an amazing truth, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, even though He was dead shall live. And anyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.’

He asked Martha if she believed that, and praise God she gave testimony that she did.

I love that promise. One day this old body is going to quit working. Chances are that I am lot closer to that side of life than the other way. That is, of course, unless I live to me 116!

Anyway, it is great comfort to know that even when my body wears out I am going to keep on going. Because I have put my faith in the fact that Jesus is indeed the resurrection and the life. My body will die but Roger is not going to have to face death. Instead I am looking forward to a new, improved version of life.

Praise God that I belong to not only the One who can provide resurrection, but is the Resurrection and the Life Himself!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Let us go die with Him

Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." – John 11.16

It looked like desperate times. Jesus told them flat out that Lazarus was dead. They knew that the Jews wanted to kill Jesus if He went up to the feast. Thomas the twin simple said ‘let us go up and die with Him.’

The scene would be almost comical if it were not so serious. You can almost sense Thomas’s spirit. ‘Lazarus is dead. Lazarus is dead. We might as well go and die with them.’

It seems like Thomas was a bit of a pessimist. Remember what happened when he saw the risen Jesus? He didn’t believe it was true until he actually touched the wounds.

Thomas may have had his doubts. He might have had his fears. He might have had his problems. We all do.

But Thomas shows us how to deal with those doubts and fears and pessimism.

He said ‘Let us go.’

His fears and doubts were there, but he didn't let them paralyse Him. Despite everything he said ‘let’s go.’

We all know about ‘Doubting Thomas’ but we rarely think of the ‘Let’s Go Die With Jesus Thomas.’ 

Sunday, 21 October 2012


My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. – John 10.27-28

I wish I was more of a theologian. I know it is my own fault. I have had plenty of chances to do more theological studies. I have had chances to read and do my own studies. I just can’t get my head around some of the great theological truths.

One of the great theological debates is about whether once we are saved we are saved for good or whether it is something we can lose.

A couple of things here lead me to my point of view. For one thing Jesus says that He gives eternal life. He says those who are His will never perish. Both of those seem to indicate that that the life He gives is eternal. He says those who come to Him will never perish. It is hard for me to see that those who will never perish could possibly perish.

But then Jesus says something that I can’t get past, ‘neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My Father has given them to Me and He is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of His hand.’

No man can pluck us out and Jesus hand and no one can snatch us out of His hand because He is great than all.

Eternal life. Imperishable. Unpluckable. Unsnatchable.

Like I said, I am not much of a theologian, but that sounds pretty secure to me. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

I lay down my life

I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father." – John 10.14-18

Jesus begins His statement here with the idea that a good shepherd cares so much for his sheep that he would even die for them. He would risk life and limb to see them safe. I have heard anecdotal tales of this kind of thing happening on a pretty regular basis.

Here Jesus makes a profound application – ‘just like a good shepherd will lay down his life for His sheep I will lay down my life for my sheep.’

The truth is that if Jesus did not go to the cross on His own no one could have made Him go. Jesus went to the cross and laid down His life as a willing sacrifice. The Father loved the Son and the Son loved his people (and other’s not of his fold, but that’s a story for later) so much that He laid His life down for them and us.

Why would He do that? 

‘I lay my life down so that I can take it up again.’

He had to die in order to conquer death. He had to conquer death to give eternal life. It was all in His power.

Praise God for the laying down and the taking up. Because of that death has lost its victory and the grave has lost its sting. Now I have assurance of eternal life because of His sacrifice.

What great love. We only love Jesus because He first loved us. He proved that love when He laid down His life for us, because ‘greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friend.’ 

Friday, 19 October 2012

The door to abundant life

I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  – John 10.9-10

I enjoy seeing all of times where Jesus uses the words ‘I am.’ Not all of them of course have the same meaning or impact as the simple but profound ‘I AM’ but they do tell is much about Him. 'I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life' and many other examples. And here He says, 'I am the door.'

Here Jesus made a very simple statement. He set the standard. He made it all clear. There are not many doors to heaven. There is one door and He is that door. The wonderful thing is that the door is open to anyone. It is not a closed door. There is not a secret password. ‘If anyone enters the door through Christ he will be saved, will go in, and find pasture. He doesn’t even have to wait for heaven, the pasture is there at salvation.

There it is in black and white (or red and white is you use a red letter Bible) – Jesus is the door to salvation. Anyone who wants can enter through Him and find eternal life.

But not only is it eternal life. There is also abundant life.

We all know that there are times when our lives are not materially abundant. Possessions come and good and we face good times and bad times. Situations change. We may be on top of the mountain one day and in the deepest valley the next.

No matter what we face though we can fall back on the spiritual abundance that Jesus provides. There have been times in my life when if the here and now and the ‘things that are seen’ were all I had I would have given up hope. The abundance in my life is not from those things. It is from the ‘things unseen’ that last for eternity. My abundance comes in the fact that no matter what I face Jesus is there with me. My abundance comes in knowing that this is not all there is.

Praise God that Jesus not only gave me life forever, but He gave and gives and will give it abundantly forever and ever. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The stranger

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." – John 10.1-5

I have may have told this story here before, in fact I am pretty sure I have. But I still have to use it because it is my one experience at shepherding and the sheep/shepherd image is used a few times in Scripture to talk about God and His people.

Several years ago we had a shepherd family in our church. I think it was about this time of year, the weather was turning, and the sheep needed to be moved out of the fields into the farmyard and wintering sheds. They asked me if I could give them a hand. Sure! What a great opportunity for a preacher.

So I kitted out and went out to the farm. I was all ready to help move the sheep and have great stories. Mum, Dad, and kids were all in their wellies and we headed out. I was excited!

But Dad said ‘Roger, we need you to stand here in front of the food bin and make noise whenever they get close. They won’t follow you anyway.’

So I did.  But, having the sceptical nature I do, I tried a few times to call the sheep as they passed by. When I did they ran as quickly as they could to get away. I scared them to death!

That is the picture here. Jesus is the true Shepherd. His true followers follow Him. They are not drawn away by a stranger. They will ‘by no means follow a stranger, because they don’t know him.

So what happens when the strangers come along in our lives? Are we enticed by them? Are we tempted to turn aside from the One who cares for us? God give us the strength and the wisdom to turn aside from the stranger and follow our Shepherd to the place of peace and protection. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

One thing I know

So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, "Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner." He answered and said, "Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see." – John 9.24-25

I guess the best known and most popular hymn ever written is John Newton’s ‘Amazing Grace.’ Most people in the English speaking west are at least familiar with those words ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.’

Sometimes theologians and even every day Christians can get caught up in all kinds of religious and theological debates. In some ways that is good. We are challenged to know our Bibles and be able to defend our faith when people questions. But sometimes that can get in the way of some very simple truths.

This healed blind man was in a situation like that. The Jews were looking for a chance to get Jesus (again). They could not argue that this man could now see so they a different tack. ‘You really ought to give God the glory here. We know that this man is a sinner. He doesn’t deserve the credit.’

His reply was perfect – ‘I don’t know if this man is a sinner or not. I do know one thing, I was blind, but now I see.’

Sometimes that might just be the best answer we can come up with. There are times when we are not going to know all the answers. Sometimes we just haven’t learned them yet. Sometimes there are difficult things that we may never understand completely.

There are times we do just as well take the words of this man to heart. ‘You know what? I can’t figure all of this out. But I do know one thing, ‘Once I was blind, but now I see.’

I am not going to win every debate. I am not nearly smart enough. I am not going to ever figure it all out. People are going to outsmart and out think me.

When I was in Bible college and seminary I thought I knew a lot, but the older I get the more I realise what I don’t know. Still, I do know this for certain – ‘Once I was lost, but now I am found. Once I was blind, but now I can see,’ and that might just be enough at the end of the day.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The night is coming

Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. – John 9.3-4

There are certain little snippets of scripture that just don’t need a whole lot of explanation. This is one of those passages.

Jesus knew that His earthly ministry was coming to an end. The healing of the blind man happens about six months before Jesus’ crucifixion. We saw yesterday that the healing of this blind man was so that the mighty work of God might be seen.

It is the next little part that catches my eye though – ‘I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day, the night is coming when no man can work.’

Jesus stresses the importance of doing the work while there is still time. He knew that He only had a few months left to do whatever He could do on earth, then that aspect of Him ministry would be over.

We don’t know how long we have. We might have decades and we might have seconds. But the night is certainly coming when we will no longer be able to do the work we have been sent to do.

I don’t know about you, but I find that terribly convicting. God has commissioned us to be His witnesses and to share His good news of salvation to the world around us. We only have a limited about of time to do. The night is coming when we won’t be able to do that work.

What are we doing about it today?

Monday, 15 October 2012

That God’s work might be seen

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. – John 9.1-3

I like the disciples. I like the fact that they were people just like us. I like the teacher/disciple relationship that they shared with Jesus. I liked the free and easy way they were able to ask questions.

As they travelled along they saw a common sight. They saw a blind man who had been blind since birth. One of the disciples asked a simple question, ‘Who sinned to cause this mane to be blind?’

This would have been a common enough question. When someone was ill or maimed the common idea was that someone must have sinned to cause it. We tend to try and figure out a reason for everything. The disciples wondered if it was this man’s sin or his parent’s sin that made him blind.

Jesus answered that nobody’s sin was to blame for the blindness. The truth is that this was an opportunity for Jesus to show His mighty work and at the same time heal a man’s blindness. This man had the rare opportunity for Jesus to show His power though Him.

The truth is that faith is hard. People are not going to believe, for the most part, unless they see something tangible. In this case giving this guy his sight was a way of proving Jesus’ might and drawing men to Him.

Sometimes God still does that. Sometimes He does perform mighty works of very clear healing today. Sometimes He shows His might not through physical healing, but in the way He changes a person’s life. Jesus doesn’t always show His might in the same way.

Jesus’ desire is to see everyone come to faith in Him. He knows that He is the only way to eternity. He knows that He has the truth. He knows that He is the key to eternal life. Eventually His desire to see men saved will lead Him to the cross. But, here, along that way, He is giving pointers.

Praise God for His healing powers. Praise God that one day He took away the spiritual blinders and gave me sight. Praise Him for that day in 1974 when He showed His might and gave me spiritual sight! 

Sunday, 14 October 2012


Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."  - John 8.58

The Jewish leaders were already fed up with Jesus. All it was going to take was one more push to turn them totally against Him.

The Jewish leaders were trying to figure Him out. No one could deny His teaching and influence so they needed a plan of action. As they talked to Him Jesus talked about His relationship with the Father. He talked about how He brought truth. He even called them children of the devil.

They claimed they were not the children of the devil but instead were children of Abraham.

Then Jesus made a strange claim that He had seen Abraham’s time. ‘You are not even 50 years old! How could you have seen Abraham’s day?’ It was intriguing. How could Jesus claim to have seen Abraham who had lived several hundred years earlier?

Jesus’ reply was more than profound – ‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was I am.’ Read that again. He didn't say 'before Abraham was I was.’ He said ‘Before Abraham was I am.’

The Jews response is telling. They took up stones to kill Him.


Jesus had just spoken words so holy that many Jews would not even write them down. He had claimed the name I AM which was the same name God used when He met Moses at the burning bush. I AM was the holiest of God’s names and Jesus had just taken it for Himself.

The line in the sand is even clearer now. Jesus can no longer be a ‘good man’ or a ‘great teacher.’ Either He is God or liar. Either He is God or blasphemer.

That is the choice people need to make. Is He God or is He the ultimate blasphemer? There is no middle ground here.

I am grateful that I know that the One who died for me is the great I AM. He is the always eternal and self-sufficient one. Because He is all that and more I can trust His wisdom to guide me through any situation. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Your father the devil

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. – John 8.44

The one group that Jesus was constantly going after was the artificial religionists of His day. The Jewish leaders He was talking to were just such characters. They thought they could find salvation in their Jewishness even though they were arrogant, hateful, and proud. They were totally opposed to this new young upstart who seemingly wanted to upset their apple cart with His teachings and ideas.

The time had come for Jesus to draw a clear line in the sand between those who hold to the truth and those who believe a lie. ‘You are of your father, the devil’ He said. This must have hit them like a tonne of brick because they assumed their religion was making the Father happy and yet Jesus called them children of the devil! ‘You want to do the things that the devil desired’ Jesus continued, ‘there is no truth in him, he is a liar and the father of lies.’

Jesus drew a clear distinction here – people either follow the truth or they follow a lie. He had already proclaimed that He brought the message of truth and that these guys were following the father of lies.

The first thing that has to happen is to accept the fact that there is such a thing as truth. That very idea is no longer even accepted today. Truth is whatever one wants it to be and everyone has their own truth. Unless one accepts that 'true truth' exists there is no chance of the next step.

The next step is to accept the truth of Christ over the lies of the devil. This is, of course, another act of faith. It is so easy to accept the lies of immorality and materialism and such because they are so appealing to the here and now that it can block everything else out.

Putting faith in and trust in the truth is tougher. It is a matter God working in a person’s heart. It requires looking beyond the here and now to what happens in eternity. It requires, well, faith.

Nearly 35 years ago I chose to take a step of faith and accept Jesus’ statements about truth. It has changed my life both for now and for eternity. All I can do is speak for myself and say that I am grateful that Jesus has provided THE way, THE truth, and THE life. 

Friday, 12 October 2012

The truth will set you free

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." – John 8.31-32

Jesus was not a popular guy among the Jewish leaders and theologians. His preaching was already having an impact and opposition to Him and His teaching was growing.

But some of them believed the things He was teaching. He put that belief to a test and a standard when He said ‘if you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed.’

The true test of whether or not one follows Him is whether or not they abide in His word. Those who truly follow Him are going to have lives that are different and are guided by His word.  This does not mean that Christians never sin, or that Christians never wander, but that those who are truly committed to following Christ will live accordingly.

And then Jesus added, ‘and you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’

This is one of those Bible sayings that has made its way into popular culture, but what does it mean? To find the answer we need to look at the context. Jesus was speaking to Jews who were bound by the Jewish Law. The Law was tough – real tough. They were severe penalties for the usual things, but also severe penalties for violations of hygiene and dietary regulations. People must have felt trapped by the rules and regulations. We now know that the purpose of the Law was to teach how impossible it would be for man to earn his way to heaven. Perfection would have been required. Despite the Old Testament passages that told about the importance of heart change people still felt bound by that Law.

But Jesus said ‘now I am here. I am the way, the truth, and the life. My truth will set you free from the burden of the Law.’ Paul wrote to the Galatians that ‘…the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.’

But in Christ grace was made complete. In Christ the burden of the Law was lifted and the life of grace was established.

The truth makes us free from religious burdens today. The grace life should never be a burden, but a life of joy. The truth indeed does set many free – and praise God for that freedom! 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

I do the things that please Him

And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. – John 8.29-30

There is a lot here in this part of Jesus teaching. He keeps on going, even when a great number of His disciples turn away from Him. He kept at it with comments like we read here, ‘the Father has not left me alone. He who sent me is with me.’

So He did the things that pleased the Father.

I know that we are not going to be as perfect as Jesus. I know that I will never get to the point where I always do what please the Father. I am still a sinner – I am not going to be perfect.

But should our goal not be to emulate Jesus here? Should we not strive to say ‘I always do the things that please the Father?’

I for one fall far short of that goal. I am amazed sometimes how short I fall of the goal of doing the things that please God.

As Jesus always did the things that please the Father many believed in Him.

I have to wonder if I were truly striving to always please my heavenly Father what kind of impact in leading others to believe in, not me, but Him.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Go and sin no more

She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
– John 8.11

The story of the adulteress caught in her sin and the accusers does not end with ‘let him who without sin cast the first stone.’

When Jesus stood up after writing in the dirt all of the accusers have disappeared. No one could throw the first stone and no one was willing to hang around to see what could happen next. They were pricked in their own conscience and wandered off one by one, from the oldest to the youngest.

So when Jesus stood He was there alone with the woman. ‘Where are your accusers? Who is there left to convict you?’

‘No one is here Lord. There is on one to condemn me.’

Then Jesus said something that might seem a little surprising. ‘I am not going to condemn you either.’ Wow! That doesn't sound like something we might expect Jesus to say. He was God. He was perfect. He hated sin. Sin was going to send Him to the cross. Surely this man of God would condemn her for her sin that brought her to this point.

But He chose not to condemn her. That does not mean He condoned her sin because the next line in ‘go now and stop your sinning.’

Jesus was God. He could have condemned her for her sin right then and there. He did it to the Pharisees and religious leaders all the time. But He would not condemn her.

He gave her a second chance. He told her to stop sinning.

I love the fact that Jesus gives second chances. Praise God that He loves the common folk. He loves the ones that the world looks down on condemns as hopeless. With a simple ‘go and sin no more this guilty adulteress had another chance. We may never know what she did with that second chance, but praise God that she had it! 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

He who is without sin

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." – John 8.7

Here we have one of those events in the Bible that ‘everyone’ knows about and one of the verses that virtually everyone can quote. So often when someone has done something wrong and other people are critical someone will pop up and say ‘let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’

However that kind of usage makes light of what Jesus is saying. Jesus never says to excuse sin or let it go lightly (see tomorrow). What He is saying is that we need to be careful to watch our own spirits and attitudes toward others.

Here is what happened. A woman was caught in the act of adultery. There was no need for trial because she was caught in the act. The penalty for adultery was death by stoning. Obviously the story would have gotten out and everyone came to see this ‘wicked woman’ stoned to death. This kind of thing has always stirred man’s baser passions.

The scribes and Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus out so they brought her to where He was. The reminded Him of the penalty for adultery and asked Him what they should do. They knew of His reputation for love and compassion for ‘those kind of people’ so they figured they had Him for sure. Either He would violate the Law by showing compassion, or He would go against what He had been teaching.

So what did He do? He stopped down and wrote something in the dirt. We don’t have a clue what He wrote and any guesses are just that – guesses.

Whatever He wrote had an impact. He then stood and said those classic lines ‘let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’

With that kind of remark who was going to through that first stone? How could they? They knew they were not sinless and knew that their friends also knew they were not sinless.

Sin must be dealt with. God makes that clear all though the New Testament. Those who are in sin need to be confronted. Jesus also talks about making sure that we deal with the beam in our own eyes before worrying about the speck in someone else’s eye.

Let’s be sure that we are fully aware of our own sin. My mom used to tell me to be careful pointing my finger at someone else, because when I do there are three pointing back at me.

She may not even have known it, but that is pretty good Bible advice. 

Monday, 8 October 2012

Where will we go?

Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. – John 6.67-68

I know we can’t judge about Jesus’ emotions by just a few words. We do know however that He was a man, a complete man. He was human. So therefore, we can assume that, like the rest of humankind He had emotions. We see His compassion and we even see Him weeping.

Based on that I think it is safe to assume that He could feel heartbroken. I think that is how He must have felt when all of these disciples left Him.

When that happened Jesus turned to the disciples who remained and asked them – ‘do you want to go away as well?’

I know that feeling. It is tough to have people turn on you. It is hard to work and love and pour out your life and then have people turn their backs on you and walk away. Been there, done that, and have a t-shirt or two to prove it.

I don’t know how it all works out, but it is a comfort to know that Jesus knows and responded the same way I have done.

But I love Peter’s response. That guy was never middle of the road. Whether right or wrong he always spoke out. ‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life!’

What a perfect response for such an imperfect guy. He nailed it – why would we go anywhere else?

Following Christ is not easy. Sometimes it is very lonely. Sometimes following Him will cause others to turn away from us. Sometimes following Him may alienate family and friends. Sometimes we may even wonder if it is really worth carrying on.

But, where else are we going to go? Jesus does have the words of eternal life. He is our only hope in this messed up world. If this world is the best there is on offer then we really don’t have much hope, do we?

I think I’ll stick with Jesus. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

They went no more with Him

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. – John 6.66

This is a passage which is both sad, and at the same time, a little encouraging. Jesus had been preaching some pretty tough truths about the flesh and the Spirit and partaking of Himself as the spiritual bread of heaven. It was far too difficult for them to grasp. All they knew was that He was making some unusual demands and claiming that the only way to the Father was through Him.

So from this time on many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.

That is heart breaking. How can people He had poured His life into turn away and stop following Him? This was Jesus after all. He was The Teacher. He spoke of love and peace and of the kingdom of God.

But even Jesus did not keep all those who had followed Him.

Now we know that those who left Him were never truly His dedicated followers. They were just along for the buzz of this new religious celebrity.

I don’t know all about Jesus’ emotions, but I think the next verse gives us a sense of how He must have felt, but more on that anon.

But how can that be encouraging?

It is encouraging because we all know how it feels to love and care and pour our lives into people and then have them turn their backs on us. It is comforting to know that it is not necessarily about us. (Of course we had better be sure that it is NOT us). Even Jesus had people turn on Him.

It sort of reminds me of when the people rejected Samuel and prophet/leader and demanded a king. God told him, ‘don’t be discouraged, they have not rejected you, they have rejected Me.’

We can’t give up when people we work with turn away. They did it to Jesus – we might expect it to happen to us. 

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The flesh profits nothing

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."  John 6.63-65

People make religion far too difficult. Religion becomes all about doing this and doing that or not doing this or not doing that. Religion makes a relationship on God dependent on something we do or don’t do.

Now don’t get me wrong, God does expect His people to act in certain ways, but that is a result of, not a way to a relationship with. But more on that elsewhere.

Man has always tried to fix things with God by doing things. We think that if we meet all the regulations and rituals and rites surely God will be happy and we will be okay for eternity. People have done kinds of silly and ridiculous things to earn eternal life. We all can see images of those people who will self-flagellate or have themselves crucified to make God happy. Not everyone is that dramatic. Some people think by joining a church or being baptised or taking communion or going to confession of tithing or being a good guy will earn them points with God and maybe, just maybe, there will be enough points at the end to get them through the Pearly Gates.

But Jesus makes it clear here – only the Spirit gives life – doing the things of the flesh is of no profit. He said that hearing and obeying His words gives life, nothing else.

Why would He say that? Why would He write off all that human effort?

Because He knew what was coming. He knew that there was a price for sin and that man could do nothing about it. He knew His future. He knew that all that could be done was going to be done by Him on the cross. As the only Perfect One He was the only one who could pay the sin debt.

We know that that He accomplished that. We now know that He paid the sin debt for all of us. We know that there is nothing we can do to improve on it. We know that if there was anything we could do He died for nothing.

His words are clear – ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’

I know for a fact that there is nothing I could ever do in my flesh to placate a perfect holy God. Praise God that through the finished work of Christ on the cross the Spirit can and will give life. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

The bread of life

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." – John 6.48-51

When I was in seminary I took a course called ‘Jesus the Master Teacher.’ Our first assignment was to write a five page paper on the ‘Teaching Techniques of Christ.’ The only resource we were permitted was our Bibles. At the time I only though of our hard the work was. In retrospect I still remember some of the things I found.

One of the things that sticks out in my mind is this passage. Here Jesus employs a least two teaching methods. He knew His learners and based His teaching on what they knew and He used what we now call an ‘object lesson.’

Jesus referred back to the time when God miraculously provided manna for the Jews for forty years while they wandered in the desert. That was great, but eventually those folks all died.

Now Jesus makes His point. ‘Just like that manna was the physical food that sustained those people for forty years I am the spiritual food that will enable you to live forever.’

Today Jesus remains the bread of life. He is the only hope for eternal sustenance.  There is a world hungry for ‘something.’ Not everyone even knows what that something is. But Jesus will fill that void and satisfy that hunger for all those who will turn to Him. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Joseph’s son

The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?" - John 6.41-42

I may have mentioned this back in Matthew, but I am still impressed by the truth of this that I want to stop and look again in case I missed something before. I just preached on Jesus and His family a couple of weeks ago and was overwhelmed by some vital truths.

Here Jesus was preaching in His home town claiming that He was the bread of heaven who was the only one who could provide eternal life. This mystified the people, His own town folk, people who knew Him growing up.

‘How can he make that claim?’ they asked, ‘that’s Joseph’s son. What is all this about him and the Father and coming down from heaven?’

I like this. I like the fact that when Jesus came He did not come into the palace, distant from the people. He did not come in robes of splendour. He was not born into the lap of luxury and He did was not born with the right name.

He was born to an unknown Jewish girl who was getting ready to marry a carpenter, a working man. I like that the fact that for most of Jesus’ life He did not have to go on about Who His real Father was. I like that He submitted himself to Joseph’s household and worked in his carpenter shop. I like that Jesus got His hands dirty and smelled like sweat and sawdust and had calluses on His hands. In other words, I like the fact that He chose to veil His deity with a life like mine.

I realise that as God Jesus did not have to become like me to understand me. He is God after all and knows everything. But I still like to see in a practical way that He does understand because He lived like me. He had to get up and go to work. He had jerk customers. He had bills to pay.

Would Jesus have had the same impact if He had been born in a palace and never worked a day in His life? To be honest I don’t know, but it gives me comfort to know that He has been through the things I go through. It makes it so much easier to talk to Him. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

No means cast out

And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. – John 6.35-37

I know that there are a lot of debates on this topic. I know that some reading this will disagree with my conclusion. That’s okay, but I find a great deal of comfort in these couple of verses.

Jesus said here that He was the bread of life. He said that whoever came to Him would never hunger. He said that whoever believed in Him would never thirst. He said that anyone who came to Him would by no means be cast out.

Never. Never. By no means.

And then we have words like ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’

I certainly don’t know all the details, but it surely seems that when Jesus came into my life He came in to stay.  

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."  - John 6.26-27

We all have things that we labour for. We work to improve our lot in life. We work to provide for our families. We work for the gratification of working. We work to move to the top in our jobs.

These are all a part of life. But in this drive to thrive world they can be a dangerous part of life if we are not careful. If we don’t watch it the labour for ‘food which perishes’ can supplant the labour for food that ‘endures to everlasting life.’

This happens when our physical or worldly labour becomes more important to us than our labour for the Lord. It happens when our labour for the things of this world are more important that the our labour for the world that is too come.

The argument might be something like this. ‘I only want to provide for my family and make sure they have the things that they need and want.’

Jesus talks about that in another place when He say ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.’

Yes, we have to work to pay the bills. That is right and Biblical. But we can’t let it get in the way of our labour for the Lord. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

With Jesus in the boat

But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.  - John 6.20-21

It is interesting that Caleb spoke on Mark’s account of this event in church just yesterday. I love it when I learn from my children and yesterday was one of those days.

Caleb and Karen brought a group of the lads from Tiglin for the day. Caleb only preached a brief message from Mark on the account to the storm and Jesus walking on the water. The guys in the boat were understandably troubled. Apparently the storms there are fierce and life threatening. And then, and they struggled to keep the boat afloat, they saw a ghost walking across the water. They must have been terrified!

But then Jesus spoke out ‘Don’t be afraid, it is I.’

In the Mark account the storm is still. In this account the come to land. People differ, but I think they were two different events. But either way the lesson is the same. When they let Jesus in the boat the situation was sorted.

That is what Caleb pointed out yesterday. The problem was solved when the disciples let Jesus into the boat.

I think sometimes we can be so busy trying to bail the water out of the boat that we don’t even think to let Jesus in. We ignore His presence as we keep trying to sort things out ourselves.

What kind of storms are we facing today? Might we do well to follow the example of the disciples and let Jesus into the boat and give Him control?