Friday, 30 November 2012

Leaving Glendalough

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  – John 17.18

I have often heard this passage used to preach on missions and have often done it myself. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I think it is a great missions passage. Jesus came into the world to bring the good news of salvation and He does indeed send us out to do the same thing.

But I think we miss something if that is all we get out of it. To illustrate let me go to place called Glendalough. Hidden away in the valleys of the Wicklow Mountains is an ancient monastic settlement. Starting in about the 5-6th century Christian monks began gathering in this place of absolute beauty and natural majesty. They built a small community with houses, churches, chapels, and work areas. They used the place to meditate, copy the scriptures, and commune with God. Whenever I am there I can see the draw. Even on the busiest tourist days there is a quiet and a mystique about the place. In the off season when there are only a handful of people it is easy to see why people came here to withdraw from the world and spend time with God.

One of the founders was a man named Kevin. He was not content with the quiet of the monastic village he moved a couple of miles away and lived in a cave which is inaccessible to tourists today. Above that, on the side of one of the mountains, he had a place of worship where he would spend days alone in meditation and worship.  

For centuries Glendalough pilgrims made their way there over the Wicklow Gap, across the Sally Gap, and along a long lonely road over the Dublin Mountains to meditate and reflect. Many of them truly came to spend time with Christ.

Today it is a tourist site and the Christian ethos is gone. People go there for the scenery and some go there for some kind of vague ‘spirituality.’ It is still a beautiful inspiring place.

There are times when I can see the draw of Glendalough Christianity. When in the midst of the hustle and bustle and wickedness and bad news and bothersome people and irritations of life it would be easy to just withdraw to some wonderful place of quietude and reflection. In fact, I think we could all do with some of that.

But the hard truth is that we can’t stay in Glendalough. As Jesus was sent to the earth from heaven by the Father Jesus sends us into the world. We have to leave Glendalough and go out into the world.

Most of us have never lived in a physical Glendalough. But I think we can be guilty of living in some kind of neo-Glendalough. We are happy enough to go to church, send kids to the Christian school, stay busy with church activities and build church  facilities to provide everything we need so that we never have to go out into that dirty old world. We stay clean and we stay pure and we never defile ourselves with the world.

Nice, but that is not what God intended. A very dear Irish friend once used the phrase ‘you have to get your hands dirty’ to reach people. Indeed that is the case. We can’t stay in our little Christian shells and still reach the world with the gospel. We have to get out of Glendalough and get into the real world. Jesus didn’t send us to Glendalough, He sent us into a world we are not a part of.

The only question is whether or not we are willing to go. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Sanctifying truth

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.  – John 17.17

Earlier on in His ministry Jesus had said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ Now Jesus returns to the subject of the truth in His prayer for us.

‘Sanctify them by Your truth,’ Jesus prayed ‘Your Word is truth.’

There are a couple of things to look at here. First we need to look at the word ‘sanctify.’ It looks like a theological word, and in a sense it is. But it really is a pretty simple word – it just means ‘separate.’

So Jesus’ prayer here is that God would separate His people from the world (since they are not a part of it anyway). Jesus’ desire is that we would be separate from the world.

Secondly is the way that we are to be separate. Jesus’ prayer is we would be separated by the truth. That alone says something because, as mentioned a couple of weeks ago, many claim that there is no truth. The fact that we accept a truth alone sets us apart. Because of that truth will set us apart from those who believe in no truth.

And then there is the fact that it is God’s truth that sets us apart. So now we need to know what God’s truth is.

‘Your word is truth’ Jesus said. That is what sets us apart. We are set apart because we are people of the Book. It is the divider that separates us from the world.  What makes the difference between us and the world is that we live according to the word of God.

Certainly we were set apart in a sense at salvation. It is also certain that one day we will be completely set apart when we go to be with Him.

But in the meantime we are to live lives that are sanctified to Christ even while sojourning in the this land and I have to say ‘that ain’t an easy thing to do.’

Our power for sanctification comes through the word of God. As we read and study and pray and listen to teaching God’s Holy Spirit takes that word and drives it home to our hearts. When we follow His lead we lives sanctified and separated lives. When we don’t do that we get all caught up in all the nonsense going on around us that really is none of our business.

Jesus prayed that God would set us apart with His word. He has given us His word to do just that. The question is whether or not we are people of the Book, or if we are happy just being a part of this world. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Not of this world

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. – John 17.16

In the middle of the section we looked at yesterday on Jesus’ prayer for us He makes a statement that we had all better be sure that we have in our heads and hearts.

When speaking of His followers Jesus said that neither He nor they were ‘of this world.’ We will look a bit more about Jesus not being of this world, but what does it mean to us that Jesus said we are ‘not of this world?’

It means that ‘this world is not our home.’ It means that our true citizenship is in heaven. It means that all we see is temporary. It means that in this world moth and rust corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It means we have a better country.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I really battle this ‘not of this world’ truth. I find myself being consumed with the things of this world. It is not only the obvious things the lusts of the flesh and desires to have more of this world. It goes beyond that. I find myself letting my emotions being controlled by economic and political news stories. I find myself in political debates and arguments. I find my emotions affected by such silly things as how my sports teams do or how the dollar/euro is performing or how elections go.

We live in this world so it is going to have some impact – we can’t avoid that.

The problem comes when we let the world’s affairs dominate our thoughts and lives. It happens when we forget our true homeland.

Our daily goal should be that we will not set our thoughts and affections on the visible and temporary things of this world. Instead our thoughts and affections should be on the invisible and eternal things of our better country where our treasure is incorruptible and undefiled, reserved, and that will not fade away. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

I pray for them

"I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. …. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one… "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; – John 17.9,15, 20

Of all the people that I could have praying for me there is one that I treasure above all others. I love to hear that people are praying for me. It is such an encouragement and many times we have just ‘known’ when people were praying. It is a powerful connection.

But here we see an amazing and seeming unusual blessing. Jesus, the only one who can always pray in the will of God is praying for us. He says it right here – ‘I am not praying only for these disciples but for everyone who is going to believe through their words.’ Isn’t that something? Two thousand years ago Jesus was already praying for us!

And what was He praying? He prayed that we would not be a part of the world. Notice He didn’t pray that we would be taken out of it, but that we would not be part of it while we live in it. He prayed that we would be one with each other and one with Him. He prayed for us as we are sent out into the world. He prayed that we would be protected from the evil one.

With all of that praying for us what does it mean when we are divided, when we act like the world, and when we fall prey to the evil one?

It simply means that we are acting contrary to God’s will and Jesus’ prayer for us. We can’t blame it on anyone but ourselves.

When we are tempted to step out of line let’s be sure we remember who prayed for us and strive to honour His prayer. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

This is eternal life

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. – John 17.3

When we think about eternal life we tend to think about what is going to happen to us after we die. We think that ‘eternal life’ has a start sometime in the future.

But eternal life is much more than that. Eternal life is knowing God and knowing Christ.

I realise that they are the same, but Jesus points out a difference here so I think there is an application.

Everyone likes to know someone famous. Most of us will never know anyone truly famous but that doesn’t stop us from letting people know when we know someone who is only ‘sorta’ famous. It is nice to be associated with ‘somebody.’

But we get to know not just ‘somebody’ but the ultimate somebody. Not only that, in some mysterious way, we get to know Father and Son not only in eternity but in this life.

Knowing God. Wow! What a blessing.

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ Hey, I know Him!
‘For God (I know Him) so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (I know Him too!) that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

When the ‘does God exist’ debate pops up we can gladly say ‘Sure there is a God. I know Him!’ 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Overcomer

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." – John 16.33

‘In the world you will have tribulation.’ Well, that’s really encouraging isn’t it? It does not seem like much of a recruiting tool for the Lord’s work. Even stranger it follows the words ‘in Me you may have peace.’

It can appear at times like all we see is tribulation. Sometimes the tribulations are so severe that they almost be smothering. It seems like we can’t even see over the edge, must less overcome the challenges.

The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to find the way to overcome. Jesus prefaces His remark about tribulation by saying we will have peace. He says that we can be of good cheer. How is that possibly? It is possible only because He has overcome the world already. The word ‘overcome’ is translated in other places as ‘victorious.’ Paul writes of how we can rejoice because we always walk in triumph in this present world.

We may never see the way to overcome the problems we face in this world. The good thing is that because Christ is with us we don’t have to do the overcoming. Christ has already done it. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in this old world. 

We have peace. We have good cheer. Because HE has overcome! 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

You will leave me alone

Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. – John 16.32

I hate to be alone. I am not one of those guys who relishes solitude. I don’t mind short spells alone, but generally I don’t like loneliness.

I really hate it when I feel abandoned. I hate the feeling when friends you could have sworn you could have counted on turn against you. Loneliness and abandonment are horrible things to deal with.

We wouldn’t think that Jesus would have to worry about that, would we? Surely, after all that time together with the disciples and all that they had seen He could count on them to stick with Him.

But they didn’t stick. We now know that they all did indeed leave Jesus alone.

There are so many things that amaze me about Jesus’ sacrifice. Among them is the amazing truth that He knew what He was going through, and He was going to do it all alone. No one came to comfort Him or stand by His side as He suffered and died alone.

Amazing love, how can it be?

My thoughts are drawn to one other thing here. The fact that the disciples left Jesus alone reminds how often I turn away from sweet fellowship with Him when I go after my own pursuits. May I learn to treasure the sweet communion with the One who died alone for me. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Sorrow and joy

Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, "Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'? Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. John 16.19-22

Confusion reigned supreme among the disciples. They just could not seem to understand that Jesus was actually going to leave. They were in turmoil, but were afraid to ask Him about it so He brought the subject up.

Jesus dealt with their fears and anxieties. He told them that they would indeed have a time of sorrow. He had told them that they would not see Him for a while, but then they would see Him. ‘You are indeed going to weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorry, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. It is like a woman who is in labour. Her pains are terrible, but when she has her baby her sorrow is turned to joy. Just like that, when I come again your sorrow will be turned into joy.

Obviously I have never been in labour, but I have been in the delivery room six times. As an 'outsider' I watched Mary struggle through the hours of labour. It broke my heart to watch her suffer so. But she stuck it; she got through it, and as each child was born that sorrow and pain was replaced by joy and excitement. The labour pains faded in comparison to the joy of those new babies.

Jesus wanted them, and us I think, to know that we just need to stick it out. Life is going to be tough. It is going to be laborious. We are going to shed tears.

But at the end it will be worth it all. Our sorrow will be turned into joy. And that joy will be such that no one can take it from us.

Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes for the morning. Let’s just carry on till morning and wait for that great day of joy. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Guide

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. – John 16.13

‘I just don’t know what I am going to do.’ How often have we found ourselves in that situation? Maybe some news has some our way. Maybe we are faced with a dilemma we weren’t expecting. Maybe we are facing unexpected bad news that has caught us off guard. Maybe we just don’t know what we are going to do.

It would have been cruel, in my mind at least, if Jesus had just left us behind to do His work and left us on our own to do it. It would have been impossible to remember everything He said. It would have been even 'more impossible' to pass it on faithfully to succeeding generations.

But Jesus didn’t leave us without a guide.

‘When the Spirit of truth is here He will guide you into all truth. He will speak My words. He will show you things to come.’

Almost 2000 years on and the Holy Spirit still continues His guidance ministry. The primary way, and the most reliable way He does so, is as the Author of the Word of God. It is our continual source of knowledge and guidance and of ‘things to come.’ It is unchangeable so we can count on it as even more sure than if we heard the voice of God.

But let us not deny the daily guidance of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 16 tells is that God controls the ‘reins’ of the righteous. As believers we have the Holy Spirit constantly dwelling in us guiding and directing us. We all know the experience. We are wondering what to do about a situation when the Holy Spirit is tugging and pulling at the reins of our hearts to do one thing. It is clear. It is obvious. We know the tugging.

And still we buck against the reins. We have to go our own way. We are like an untamed horse bucking against the control.

And we sin despite the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit came to give us guidance. The problem is not Him, but how we respond. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Convictor

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; - John 16.8-10

Why does sin even bother us? Why are their certain actions and conduct that are nearly universally deplored? What is it that gets someone to the point where they acknowledge their sin and realise their need of doing something about it?

While Jesus was on earth His preaching and teaching made people aware of their need of a cleansing and forgiveness. He pointed out sin and He pointed out the remedy, but He was leaving.  Now what would the world do?

We have already seen that the Lord was going to send the Holy Spirit when Jesus left. One of the key roles of the Holy Spirit is that He convicts and convinces the world of sin, righteousness and judgement.

Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit man is not going to acknowledge his sin, he is not going to see the need of righteousness, and he is not going to understand judgement. In other words turning to Christ is not the normal thing to do.

In years past there was an issue, I think it might still be there but am not sure. Back in the 70s-80s a lot of folks, well-meaning I am sure, developed systems, tools, and methods for soul-winning. Some were very high pressure with step by step instructions on how to ‘bait the line’ or maybe ‘draw in the net.’ We heard about we could use tactics and tricks to bring people to the point of salvation and then push them to stake the final step and pray the ‘sinner’s prayer.’

And it seemed to work. Numbers of professions sky rocketed. Every soul-winning night saw number of people pray and ‘ask Jesus into their hearts.’

I know for a fact that some people were truly saved during those encounters. I know because they are still going on for Christ today. But I think that they may just have been saved despite those methods instead of because of them.

It is the Holy Spirit alone who can convince a person of their sin, of their need of righteousness, and the reality of judgement. Even the greatest soul winner cannot do that.

Do we need to be sharing our faith? Absolutely.  Do we need to be wise when we do it? Certainly. Is it good to learn how to share our faith? Sure.

But we need to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who does the convincing, not us and our wisdom, skills, and tactics. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

The world hates you

"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  – John 15.18-19

We in the West have had it made for a long time. We have been loved, like, tolerated, or at least endured for a couple of centuries now. In most of our Western nations society has been on our side and even legislated to support our views and our way of life. It has been relatively easy to be to a Christian.

That is kind of a comfy cosy feeling. But it is not the norm.

Jesus gave us a warning. He knew we were not going to be popular in the general scheme of things.

Take comfort if the world hates you because it hated me first. If you were of the world the world love you. But you are not of this world because I chose you out of it – that is why the world hates you.

So if the world hates us because we are living for Christ that is to be expected. That is the norm. It only makes sense really. Jesus’ message is totally opposite to the world’s message. They are incompatible. It only makes sense that the world would hate Christ’s followers.

That’s fine. We had better get used to it.

I think there is something else we can look at here. That is the reason the world hates us. Too often the world hates Christians because, well, we are hateful. To put it bluntly the world hates believers sometimes because we are jerks.

If the world hates us because we are jerks that’s too bad, we earned it.

But it if the world hates us for being too much like Jesus we can take comfort that it is not about us, it is because they don’t like Him. 

Appointed you

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. – John 15.16

Jesus' farewell address is really something, isn’t it? I would dare say that it, if not part of the word of God, would be considered one to the great farewell addresses of history. Anti-Christian bias keeps it from being so recognised. In a limited number of words Jesus laid down the scope of what He wanted His people to do after He left.

In this verse Jesus gave us our appointment. We already have read many guidelines and instructions, but here are our marching orders. ‘I have chosen you,’ Jesus said, ‘and appointed (or ordained) you that you should go and bear fruit that remains. If you need anything for the task ask the Father and He will give it to you.’

Jesus has appointed us to bear fruit that remains. While I don’t deny that this very well includes our responsibility to share our faith and strive to draw folks to Christ I think it goes far deeper than that.

In fact, the word of God tells us exactly what the fruit of the Spirit is – love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. I have to think that if that is the fruit of the Spirit it must be part of our fruit-bearing.

Not only are we appointed to bear that fruit, but it must remain in us. These are the fruits on the vine of our lives that must continuously be borne.

It can be hard to be loving, joyful, peaceable, long-suffering, good, faithful, meek, and temperate all the time can’t it?

Well, Jesus has an answer for that – if you need help ask the Father and He will help you.

Like always – Jesus gives us a task, but He gives us the tools to do it. He doesn’t send us out unprepared. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Friends with Jesus

You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.  – John 15.14-15

I love friendship and I love my friends. I think friendship is one of the greatest gifts that God gives us. Friends are those people who know everything about you. Friends love you and true friends stick with you through thick and through thin.

Here Jesus talks about friendship, but not just any friendship. He talks about friendship with Himself. ‘You are my friends if you do whatever I command you,’ He says. But then He makes it personal – ‘I am no longer going to call you my servants, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. I have called you friends now because you know everything that I have been given by the Father.’

One of the best things about friends is how much we know each other. Here Jesus says that because we all that God wants us to know about Him we are His friends.

To be a friend of the Saviour is almost incomprehensible. To be permitted to be a friend of the Great Creator and Sustainer is a blessing beyond believe.

‘You ever heard of Jesus?’ we might ask. ‘Well, He’s my friend!’ 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Greater love

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. – John 15.13

And then then there is the pinnacle of love - the epitome of love - the apex of love – the acme of love.

‘Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.’

Clearly we can all see that the statement is true. There is no greater example of love than to give up one’s life because that is the ultimate sacrifice. In the previous verse Jesus told us that we need to love each other with the same love that God loved Him and He loves us.

It is easy enough to say that we would give up our lives for the people we love. ‘I would give up my life in a heartbeat’ we might say. I think most of us really mean it when we say it.

But how does that play out in everyday circumstances? We say we would do something as dramatic as giving up our lives, but how does that affect our lives in the lesser ways of ‘giving up our lives?’

What do I mean?

I am talking about the idea of giving up ‘our lives’ on a regular basis. I am talking about giving up the things we want to do with our lives for the ones we love.

My life might say ‘I really want to see the rugby this afternoon.’ But then our children or our wives or our friends get in a situation where they really need our help. I am not talking about something that can be delayed, but they truly need us during that specific time.

How do we respond when our life is inconvenienced? Are we willing to lay down our life for that few minutes or an hour or two, or is it enough to say ‘I would gladly lay down my life for that person?’

If we are not willing to lay down our lives in these practical little ways I wonder if we would really lay down our lives like Jesus did for us. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Live in My love

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. – John 15.9-12

We just can’t seem to get away from the principle of love. As the Father loved the Son and the Son as love us we are to live in His love. That is the source of true remaining joy. Abiding in His love brings all the fullness of joy. Love each other the same way that Jesus loved us.

That’s a whole heap of love. The pattern that leads to the challenge is almost more that we can comprehend. We are talking about divine love being passed along to sinful man. The love that we are challenged to love each other with is the love that God the Father has for God the Son.

So how do we get to the full abiding joy that results in us loving each other?

Jesus says ‘abide in my love.’ If we are abiding in that love two things are going to result. We are going to live in fullness of joy because we are going to realise that no matter what comes my way Jesus still loves me and will carry me through it. I can ‘count it all joy’ when I go through trials because I know He loves me and I am not alone.

Secondly, if I abide in His love I am going to love others. I can love them because if I abide in Jesus’ love I will see others with His eyes. I will love them the way He loves.

When I am not joyful and when I am not loving maybe I need to make sure that I am abiding in Jesus’ love the way I should. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Abide with me

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  – John 15.4-5

During the opening of the London Olympics in the summer of 2012 there was a tribute paid to the victims of the 7/7 attack on the London subways.  Emeli Sande performed an amazing rendition of the great old hymn ‘Abide With Me.’ From what I understand American viewers missed it because NBC decided not to show it.

I don’t know anything about Emeli Sande and I didn’t like the modern dance that accompanied the song, but my heart was stirred as I was reminded of the marvellous words penned by Henry Lyte almost 200 years ago.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears not bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

I thought about these words and this song as I came across this passage. Jesus challenged the disciples to abide in Him and let Him abide with them. This song is a simple description of dependence on Jesus’ abiding power.

Jesus closed this little instruction with ‘without me you can do nothing.’

I think it is obvious to all of us that unless we have His deep abiding we are hopeless and helpless. We can do nothing about anything without Him.

But we have Him. Let us start this day and every day with a new commitment to abide in Jesus and Jesus alone.

I am going to close with these words from the song above. I think it speaks well to our day.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15.1-2

God used this passage in a very special way at one time on our lives. It is one of those verses I can look back on in times of wondering and doubt and know that God is in control and that He speaks through His written word.

The year was 1991. Mary and I were teaching at Triana Village Christian School and had been for several years. We were told in April that the school was closing.

Bam! What a shock. We had thought that we had found the ministry for the rest of our lives. We loved teaching there and still have many fond memories of those days. They were special years.

But suddenly they were over.

What were we going to do now? Our hearts were broken. We knew we wanted to serve God in a vocational ministry. School had been going and we loved it so much so we had assumed that was it.

About six months later we had our missions conference at church. Mary and I were still in turmoil over our future. One night Ron Brooks spoke on this passage. He spoke of how there are times when God takes fruitbearers in the ministry and prunes them to make them able to bear more fruit.

As he spoke the Holy Spirit worked in our hearts. I don’t know about how the ‘more fruit’ has been working out over the years, but it became clear that sometimes even Christians who are serving and bearing fruit might be pruned to do more.

Pruning is never comfortable. Before we cry about it though maybe we should consider that God may just be doing some pruning in our lives to allow us to do more for Him.

I still miss the teaching. I still miss the school. But praise God for His pruning in our lives those twenty years ago. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. – John 14.27

Peace. Shalom. Salam. Vrede.  Síochána. Frieden. Paz. Paix. Мир. Ειρήνη. Kapayapaan. Pax. Pace.

No matter how you say it, peace is one of the few things the whole world desires.  I am not really an old guy yet, but even in my lifetime I have seen many, many attempts at peace. I have seen Paris Peace Talks, the Camp David Accord, Dayton Peace Talks, the Good Friday Agreement, and many more. Some have worked better than others, but still we live in a world full of war, hatred, and violence.

Why? Why doesn’t all of this work? Why can’t we all just get along?

We all just can’t get along because we all want more stuff. All of us, friends and enemies want more stuff. Man is a sinner and because he is a sinner he is a sinner he is driven by the stuff he wants. When young children play together they all seem to want what the other kids have. In essence wars and fighting are just an extension of that first conflict, except the consequences are bigger. Until man stops being a sinner, that is not going to change. And man is not going to stop being a sinner.

So what is Jesus talking about here? He gives us a hint when He says ‘I am not going to give you the world’s peace.’ And, I think we would all agree, is probably a good thing.

Instead Jesus offers a deep and abiding peace that can never be taken away. His peace abides in the midst of war, natural disaster, famine, and even elections that don’t go our way. The peace He gives is that inner settleness that carries us through the very worst because our focus is on Him and our eternity.

Praise God for the peace, the shalom, the síochána, the pax that He provides to carry through anything that comes our way. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

He lives

"A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. – John 14.19

It’s funny how we remember things, isn’t it. I, for some reason, remember my very first favourite Christian song. I don’t know the exact year, but my parents sent me to a Vacation Bible School on Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama. It must have been around 1964 judging from the memories I have with what I know now. I don’t teachers or the stories, but I do remember a song we learned. It sticks in my mind even these 40+ years later.

The reason I include this song today is because it clearly and simply states the truths that Jesus spoke about when He said ‘Because I live, you will live.’ The fact that He conquered death and His alive today gives us life, and not only that, gives us a purpose for living.

I am not going to try and elaborate on the words of Alfred Ackley from back in the 1930s in the midst of the Great Depression. I think these words are perfect for today.  

I serve a risen Saviour,
He's in the world today;
I know that He is living,
Whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy,
I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him
He's always near.

In all the world around me
I see His loving care,
And tho my heart grows weary
I never will despair;
I know that He is leading
Thro' all the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing
Will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian,
Lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs
To Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him,
The help of all who find,
None other is so loving,
So good and kind.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and He talks with me
Along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Helper

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you... But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.  – John 14.16-17, 26

The end has been coming for a while. Jesus has been giving His final words to His followers. He was trying to comfort them and prepare them for what it was going to be like when He was gone. They had to be wondering about what they were going to do.

But Jesus was not about to leave them alone. ‘I am going to ask the Father and He is going to send you another Helper (or Comforter). He will abide with your forever. He is the Spirit of Truth. He will remind you of all I taught you.

We might think, ‘Well, that’s great for them, but what about us?’

We know from the book of Romans that now no one is a Christian who does not have the Holy Spirit. ‘If any man does not have the Spirit of God He is none of His.’

So we have that same Holy Spirit with us today. We have the same Helper. We have the same Comforter. We have the same Holy Spirit abiding with us forever.

What does that mean? It means I don’t have to face today alone. It means I have the Holy Spirit with me every day. It means I have a heaven sent Helper/Comforter with me not matter what I face today! 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

If you love me

"If you love Me, keep My commandments.  – John 14.15

We used to sing a chorus that went like this.

‘Oh, how I love Jesus
Oh, how I love Jesus.
Oh, how I love Jesus
Because He first loved me.’

It is such a simple little song, and even now the little tune is running through my head.

The thing is loving that Jesus is an easy thing to talk about and an easy thing to sing about. But the truth is that it seems a little harder to prove and live.

I think the reason is that we get it backwards. We think, ‘oh, if I love Jesus I need to work really hard to keep His commandments.

Let’s try a slightly different tack though.

I remember hearing a story of a woman who got married. She soon discovered her husband was a tyrant and a bully. One morning he gave her a list of tasks and said ‘if you love me you will have all of this done before I get home every day.’ She tried. She wore herself out trying out prove her love. But she failed. She never got it all done.

Eventually the husband died. After a time she met someone who was loving and caring and compassionate. She got married again. After several months she was doing some cleaning and came across the first husband’s list of requirements. As she looked down the list she realised to her dismay that she was doing all those things and more and was never exhausted trying to get them done.

What made the difference? Love – simple love made the difference. She wasn’t trying to do it all to prove her love. Her love was enough and because she loved it came naturally.

If we love Jesus we don’t have to get out some kind of commandment tick list and tick the boxes. Those who truly love Him will keep His commandments. The Holy Spirit, as we will see soon, is our teacher and guide and helper.

If we love Jesus, if we truly love Him, keeping His commandments is ‘doin’ what comes naturally.’ 

Friday, 9 November 2012

If you ask anything

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.  – John 14.13-14

Here we have a verse that sound almost like a magic solution to all of our problems. ‘Whatever you ask in my name I will do.’

That sounds like a free for all. I want or need or desire something all I have to do is pray, say ‘in Jesus name,’ and God will do it.

It is obvious that there must be more to it. Love never gives whatever someone asks. I love my children and grandchildren with every fibre of my soul. I want to see them happy. But if AJ said to me ‘Grampy, Mommy would let me play with that knife on the counter. Can I have it please?’

My answer of course would be 'no!'

Why? He did it right. He saw something he wanted to play with. He used His mom's authority? 

You might say, 'why that's a silly example Roger!' 

Of course it is. And it is just as silly to think that we can ask for anything we want and God is compelled to give it to us.

So what does this mean?

The rest of the word of God tells us what it means. In other places we read that when we ask in the Father’s will He will hear it. We read that when we delight in the Lord He will give us the right desires.

We ask. We pray. We delight ourselves in the Lord. We seek His will. Then we sit back and watch Him work and we work in His power. 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Life

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. – John 14.6

We have today that last in the great tripartite of ‘I ams’ in John 14. ‘I am the way. I am the truth’ I am the life. Because of this no one can come the Father but through Me.’

Today we look at ‘I am the life.’

We all know that life is precious. There are of course tragic situations where a person’s life is so bad that life has lost all preciousness. How tragic that is and I in no way want to ignore that.

However, outside of those horrid situations life is seen as precious. I recently watched a very thought provoking television programme on euthanasia. An elderly woman who was quite ill had decided to end her life with the assistance of a family member. At the last moment she changed her mind. When asked why she said ‘Life is a precious thing. As I thought about it I just couldn’t let it go.’

Life is dear. In most cases we don’t want to let it go. And that is just our physical life.

Even more precious is eternal spiritual life. No matter how much we treasure life it will one day end. Our spiritual life goes on for eternity.

When Jesus said He is the life He speaks of eternity, but that eternity starts now. Jesus said that He gives life and that He is abundant life. He gives life that will conquer physical death.

Praise God that Jesus is the Way that is open to all. He is the Truth that all can know. He is the Life that all can have simply by coming to Him. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Truth

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. – John 14.6

Truth is an interesting concept.

Today truth is a much embattled subject. What is truth? Is there truth? Can’t we all have our own truth? Does truth even matter? What’s true for you might not be true for me?

Even in Jesus day we have Pilate asking that classic question ‘Quid est veritas?’ (What is truth?)

Just like people say there must be many ways to God many would say that there must be many truths about God.

But that simply is not true. True is truth because it is true. If there are multiple truths there is no truth.

Jesus made it clear that there is only one truth. That truth is found in Him.

The Greek word here is aletheia. Aristotle defined the word 'to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.' In other words, things are what they are. This is the aspect of truth which is assailed by modern culture in its ‘modernism’ and ‘post-modernism.’

But Jesus is exactly true and what He says He is. He is true and everything about Him is true.

Jesus is the truth, the only truth. He is what He says He is. There is nothing hidden about it. He is the truth that leads to eternal life. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Way

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. – John 14.6

I wish I could get away from it, but I still love politics and keep up with elections in both of my countries. I remember back to the 2004 US presidential campaign when ABC was interviewing President Bush. Charles Gibson asked him ‘do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?’

President Bush answered – ‘I think we do. We have different routes of getting to the Almighty’. (From ABC News 26/10/04)

While President Bush was a decent enough president he had some issues with his theology. I am glad that he was president and not pastor.

Jesus said something quite different. He said there is only one way –‘I am the way…no man comes to the Father except through Me.’

To an outsider that might sound very exclusive. And, I guess in a sense it is.

But on the other hand, while it is the only way, it is a wide open way. Jesus made it clear salvation was for anyone who will come. ‘Come unto me all you are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’

Yes, there is only one way to heaven, but it is an open road for all who will walk down it. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

I’ll be back

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  – John 14.1-3

Jesus was leaving. That much was clear. His disciples had been with Him for more than three years. His departure was obviously troubling. What were the disciples going to do now?

Jesus knew their fears and their trepidation. He knew they would be anxious. He knew the thought of His leaving would be troublesome for them.

And He cared enough to leave them a word of encouragement.

‘Don’t you worry. If you have believed God believe me too. My Father’s house has many places to live. I am going to get things ready for you. I wouldn’t have told you this if it were not true. I am going to come back for you and take you home.’

What a comfort in troublesome times. No matter how bad it gets here we know that there is a better home coming. We know this is not going to last forever. He know that we have an eternity with God to look forward to.

‘This world is not my home. I’m justa passing through…’ the old gospel song goes. 

While we are let’s not waste our time bewailing and complaining about our lot. Let’s love and serve God and others with all of our hearts waiting and looking for the day when Jesus comes back for us. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

This is how they will know

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." – John 13.34-35

Jesus’ ministry was at point where He was giving His last minute instructions. He was leaving and was giving instructions on how the disciples were to advance His kingdom while He was gone.

So what would mark His disciples? What would set them apart? How would people know the Jesus followers from everyone else?

One word answers all of those questions – love. ‘They will know you are my disciples by the way you love each other.

The test that Jesus said measures us is how much we as believers love each other.

Why is it then that the church is so divided? I am not talking about doctrinal differences or the faith. Why are we so divided over the petty things like the songs we sing, the way we dress for church, the translations we use, our styles of worship, or so many other things like.

I have no problem with the individuality of local churches. The body would be boring if every church were exactly alike.

My problem comes with our attitude towards each other over our differences. Instead of love we often see childish and pettiness mark our attitudes toward each other. We get jealous over others’ successes or critical over their failures. We kick our brothers while they are down and we shoot our own wounded.

They will know we are Christians by our love? How are you and I doing matching up to that standard? 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Wash each other’s feet

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. – John 13.14

I work one day a week teaching literacy to teenagers in Tallaght. As far as I know I am the only Christian on staff and there is only one Christian student I know of. It is far from a spiritual place. But even there God can give us reminders about how we are supposed to live and even challenge us by using people who don’t even claim to know Him.  

The co-ordinator (read boss) is a great example of a servant leader. When I drove into the car park she was picking up nasty rubbish that had blown out on the bin. Later one of the kids had broken a glass with soured milk as she walked by. Before anyone could respond she jumped in to clean it up. Both were dirty jobs. But she was not put off by them even though she is in charge. She is a person who knows how to serve from the top.

When Jesus got down on His hands and knees to wipe off the street grime He did so to set an example or a pattern for us.

‘If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash each other’s feet.’

I know that there are some churches that take this statement and make feet washing a part of their church practice just like baptism and the Lord’s Table. I have no real issue with that, and it could be a great reminder, but I don’t think that is the real point here.

What Jesus did was to be a servant. What He did was to take on the lowliest of tasks. What He did was to set an example for us.

This kind of thinking would be revolutionary if we all applied it. We would never have to worry about who cleaned the toilets or mopped the floor or made the tea or washed the dishes or made the airport runs or made the hospital visits or so on and so on. We would never worry about the ‘ I've done my bit’ attitude. We would not worry about the slackers and those who didn't do the work.

All we would worry about it washing feet.

I started with an example from the ‘secular’ world. We see this kind of examples all the time. Why is it that there are times when the world puts us to shame when it comes to ‘washing feet?’

How can you and I wash feet today? 

Friday, 2 November 2012

To wash the disciples’ feet

He rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.  – John 13.4-5

There is so much to learn in the upper room that it would take volumes to explain it all. It is a good thing therefore that these are only ‘reflections’ and not expositions.

One aspect of this event has always intrigued, challenged, and convicted me. I have chosen to break it into two parts and examine it from those two angles.

First, just a little bit of cultural background for us to consider. In Jesus’ day the main means of transport was by foot. People did not wear closed in shoes. They wore small sandals that basically did nothing more than protect the bottom of the feet. The streets were not paved. They were dusty and dirty. They were the same streets that animals walked down and therefore had all the stuff that comes along with animals. Obviously it didn’t take long for people’s feet to become filthy.

Because they reclined at dinner the need to wash their feet was obvious. No one wanted to eat with road smells in their face. Normally a servant was assigned to wash visitors' feet. It was one of the lowest jobs possible. If there were not servants the woman of the house would take on the task. I can’t see how anyone would have enjoyed that job.

But when Jesus and the disciples sat down to what we now call the ‘Last Supper’ they were in a hired room. There were no servants and no hosts. Who was going to do the foot washing job? I guess each one could have washed their own feet, but it looks like they would rather just go with dirty feet than to do even that much of a dirty job. None of them volunteered to wash all their feet either.  

So suddenly Jesus stood up, grabbed the feet washing towel, wrapped it around His waist, gathered up the basin used to wash feet, and started in at washing their feet. One of the most surprising things here is that several of the men let Him do it! I can’t even imagine that. I can’t imagine sitting there while my Teacher and the one I had put my faith in started washing my feet. Here I can understand Peter’s response, ‘Lord, you are not going to wash my feet!’ (There is a whole ‘nother story here but we’ll leave that one this time through.)

What sticks out to me this time through is the servant Saviour. Paul wrote of this with he later said that Jesus ‘took on the form of a servant.’ My Saviour cared enough that He washed the disciple’s feet. Theological implications aside, this was a an amazing act. The God who created the world was wiping animal dung from the feet of sinners.

Wow! What a Saviour. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The praise of men

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. – John 12.42-43

Jesus’ believers were everywhere. There were even some among the Jewish rulers. Apparently these were true believers in Christ. They were ‘saved’ or ‘born again’ as we would put it today.

However there is something sad about this situation. These Christians would not openly confess that they were Christians. They were afraid the Pharisees would kick them out of the synagogue.


Because they ‘loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.’

We are not even talking about being a ‘soul-winner’ or sharing their faith here. These guys were so afraid of losing their prestige and position that they would not even admit that they were followers of Christ.

It is one thing to not do our job of sharing our faith. It is quite another to not even admit openly that we are Christians.

But how many of us hide away in our communities and workplaces without anyone ever knowing that we are Christ-followers today?

What a shame for it to be said that anyone loves the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Instead of being critical of these guys maybe we each ought to take a moment or two and check out which praise we love more.