Sunday, March 28, 2010

life of Christ Devotional - Jn 5:1-15

"Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well." (John 5:1-15)

What is worse: having a false hope or having no hope at all? It’s difficult to say, but having a false hope seems worse in my opinion. With a false hope, the disappointment is recurring. Each time the promise of something miraculous comes along, hopes are dashed when the miraculous turns out to be just another empty promise and once again, nothing changes.
Such is the case of this poor paralyzed man who was waiting by a pool with the false hope of healing from the superstition of miraculous water. If only he could be the first person in the water, he would be healed – or so he believed. Unfortunately, as an invalid, he could not move. His hope was false and his life was filled with repeated disappointment. What a miserable situation.
Miserable, that is…until Jesus arrives. I doubt many of the other travelers that day made their way by the Sheep Pool as they entered the city gates of Jerusalem. If they did, they would not waste their time with the outcasts of the city. “Just don’t look at them and keep walking,” they might say.
But not Jesus…His eyes turned to the helpless and the poor and he was compelled to care for those in deepest need and in a most hopeless condition. As he turns to the man who could not move, he asks an interesting question, “Do you want to get well?”
Why, that seems like a silly question, doesn’t it? He has been an invalid for 38 years and he is so desperate to be healed that he has placed all his hope on superstition – magic water. Yet there is a deeper truth to this question. It is this: our greatest problem as a sinful human race is that we either do not recognize we are sick or we do not want to be healed. The first step to be taken in order for this man to be able to walk again begins with a desire to be healed.
The implied answer to Jesus from the crippled man was, “Yes, I want to be healed but I have no hope unless someone helps me. In and of myself, it is not possible. But if someone could do for me what I cannot do for myself, maybe a miracle is possible.”
For the first time, his hope would not be lost in an empty promise. Jesus did for the man what the man could not do for himself. He tells him to stand up and walk and in that moment, his atrophied muscles were restored, his brittle and crooked bones were made strong and straight. And for the first time, his hope in restoration was placed on the only One who had the legitimate power to heal. Jesus would not disappoint.
What is disappointing, however, is the response of the religious Jews who were just as disabled. Unfortunately, they would not admit their blindness and had no desire for healing. When they encounter the man they had no doubt seen by the pool (38 years is a long time to go unnoticed), they completely missed the fact that the man who was once lame was now walking in their midst. Instead, all they could see was his mat and they were completely blind to the miracle walking right before their eyes.
Don’t miss the miracle in your own life. Like the disabled man, it begins with the desire to be healed. But desire alone is not enough. The disabled man had desire long before Jesus arrived…but He had no hope until Jesus stood before him. Where do you place your hope?

"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”" (Romans 10:9-11)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - Jn 4:43-54

"After the two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed. This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee." (John 4:43-54)

Well, this is where it all began. This is the place where Jesus performed his first miracle when He turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Jesus returns to this same area and His reputation now precedes Him. The news of the “miracle man” had spread and the rumor of his wonder working power had saturated the land. They anticipated His arrival and when the people saw Him, the announcement was made, “He is here! He is here!”
This was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to display His power among the people. His reputation had preceded Him and a crowd was gathering. What an ideal chance for Him to perform life changing miracles among the people so that they might believe that He was the Messiah. He alone could awe them with His authority over all creation. Like a huge fireworks display, let His power be made known for all to see!
Yet, that is exactly the reason he did not perform such attention grabbing miracles. He was not a magician who came to perform for the people. He was not the village witch doctor or Shaman who had special powers to heal and speak to spirits. He was much more! He was God in the flesh who came to save their souls from certain death. A public miracle in this setting would only distract from this purpose and lead people to seek signs instead of seeking a Savior. Jesus knew this and withheld the display of His power at the risk of His reputation (as He did with the woman at the well). He chose instead to rebuke the excited crowd for their misguided intentions.
“You have to see to believe. Blessed is the man who does not see, but still believes.”
Just then, an important leader steps forward and says, “I care less about me and more about my son. I love him deeply and he is dying. You are my only hope and I beg you to save him. Please come to my house and heal my son!”
With the utmost compassion, Jesus looks into the troubled man’s eyes and says, “You may go. Your son will live.”
Now the man had a choice. Jesus had not met his request. He would not make the trip back to his house to lay hands on his son. And yet, Jesus said he was healed. If he did not believe he would stay and beg, “No! Jesus! You must come. You must come and heal my son.”
Instead, he stood silent. To turn and walk away and begin the 20 mile journey to his home would begin with a single step of faith. A simple trust and hope in the promise of Jesus. “If He is the promised Messiah, it will be done as He said. He is my only hope. To obey His direction, I must walk in faith.”
And so he does. And soon his faith becomes sight as his son greets him at the door of his home. And as the man tells his story, all in his household believe.
A miracle had been performed - A miracle of faith where a man chose to believe that which he could not see. He trusted the promise of Jesus and the miracle of faith spread throughout his home.
Can you believe without seeing? Are you seeking a sign or a Savior? Know today that His greatest power is demonstrated in an act of simple faith. Trust Him today and begin the journey with a single step of faith.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - Jn 4:27-42

"Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”" (John 4:27-42)

This account in the life of Jesus is a contrast between the insiders and the outsiders. The disciples, the insiders in the story, were men from the chosen nation of Israel. They, of all people, had an “inside track” to understand and know the creator God of the universe. They followed strict rules of diet and purity that gave them their identity as a people of God. This was the reason for their concern about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. It was an action at conflict with their insider status.
The woman, on the other hand, was an outsider. Three obvious qualities separated her from the disciples: (1) she was a woman (2) she was a Samaritan woman (3) she was a Samaritan woman with a questionable past. If it was the goal of Jesus to choose people who met a certain standard in order to qualify them for them for his love, this woman would not have a chance with 3 strikes against her.
Yet Jesus reveals that His love has no boundary. He saves, not based on reputation, but based on need. The woman was searching and she had a need for unconditional love and forgiveness. Jesus came to meet that need. He came to seek and save the lost.
Yet the disciples were more concerned with their own physical hunger more than they were the spiritual hunger of the people. They were ready to leave this land of the outsider and get back to people they preferred. But Jesus had a lesson in mind.
The woman had created quite a stir by going around telling everyone in her city about her encounter with Jesus. As she does, Jesus remains outside the city teaching His disciples an important illustration about sowing and harvesting. His lesson was intended to teach the disciples that their new focus must now be shifted from their own personal welfare to a greater concern for others - seeking the needs of others as more important than their own. Even if the “other” is an outsider.
As He gives His message, he directs the attention of the disciples to the city of the Samaritan woman. One by one, people become visible in their white garments as they leave the city in search for the Messiah. It was like a field white and ready for harvest. The sea of people came to Jesus to find answers to their questions and the parable of the harvest had now become a reality. It was time for the disciples to learn what it means to work in the field white for the harvest.
But it was also time for the outsiders to understand the mission of God. They would learn of the redemption of all mankind through Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Like the woman, they would drink deeply from the well that never runs dry, and through faith, they would never thirst again. Their souls are satisfied.
Is your soul satisfied in Him?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - Jn 4:1-26

"The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”" (John 4:1-26)

Segregation is not a new idea. It occurred all throughout the ancient near east during the time of Jesus- perhaps none stronger than the separation of Jew and Samaritan. Those who hear of this account in the biblical culture would have been appalled at the thought of Jesus (a Jew) initiating a conversation with a Samaritan (a Samaritan woman no less!). It would have been a scandal no less offensive than the thought of our President sitting down to have dinner at a nice New York restaurant with Osama Bin Laden. The public outcry would be huge. The same would be true of the encounter with the Samaritan woman and Jesus.
So why would Jesus risk it? Why threaten the integrity of his reputation and ministry? Maybe it was because Jesus did not come to promote his own reputation. His mission was to offer something that would change the reputation of others, not only in the eyes of man, but more importantly, in the eyes of God.
The Samaritan woman was thirsty. Like everyone, she came to a well to draw water. But unlike everyone else, she avoids the convenience of the city well and she travels a significance distance outside the city to avoid the ridicule of her neighbors. By all accounts, she was ashamed.
And Jesus knew why. He breaks the social tradition and asks her for a drink. It was a way to introduce a conversation and her surprise could not be over estimated. This is the reason she so boldly asks Jesus, “Why are you, a Jew, speaking to me, a Samaritan?”
Jesus tells her the reason. He explains that she is coming to quench the thirst of her lips, but He has come to satisfy the thirst of her soul. She is seeking water, Jesus is offering life.
But the woman does not understand at first. In fact, she is distracted by the thought of her reputation. If she did not have to come to the well, she could avoid the ridicule of others who judged her. “Please give that water so that I don’t have to come to this well,” she tells Jesus.
In what seems to be a rude interruption, Jesus tells the woman to go get her husband.
“Here we go again,” she thinks. “My reputation precedes me and I must once again reveal that no one wants me. I don’t have a husband and have been abandoned more times than I can count. Don’t remind me…I know. I am worthless and completely empty inside.”
“You mean you’re thirsty inside?” Jesus probes.
“I am,” she says. “And I have been seeking answers in the only way I know how. I know the Messiah is coming and perhaps He can give me what I am looking for.”
“He can,” says Jesus. “I who speak to you am He. You have worshiped what you do not know. Now you know.”
All creation worships God. The only difference is that some worship God in ignorance and others in truth. The woman at the well was thirsty because she was ignorant of the only source of life that would satisfy her soul. Jesus reveals that He is the one sent to satisfy the thirst of every soul.
Now He turns to you. What is your reputation? Do you have something to prove? Do you have something to hide? Jesus continues to make the same offer as He did to the woman at the well. Satisfy your soul in Him. Worship Him in Spirit and truth. Drink up my friend.