Sunday, May 30, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 7:25-36

“At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?” The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” ” (John 7:25–36, NIV)
Confusion had become the norm in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus was claiming to have been sent by God to fulfill His purpose on the earth. He was calling people to follow Him, and to do so, they would need to turn away from the religious tradition of their day. He was performing signs and miracles that validated His authority to make such claims.
And yet, the religious leaders were trying to kill Him instead of believing in Him. The average person looked to Jesus and said, “Isn’t He the one they are trying to kill? Well…here He is. Why aren’t they doing anything?”
“If He is truly sent from God as He claims, they should follow Him. If He is not, they should silence Him. But they are doing neither. Why is this so? I’m confused.”
Some might reason, “Perhaps the authorities are doing nothing because they believe that Jesus really is the Messiah.”
Others contend, “The Messiah? How can that be? He is a carpenter from Nazareth, not a Messiah!”
Still others suggest, “But the miracles!? Just think about the miracles He is performing. These are “God sized” miracles. Maybe He is the Messiah!”
You get the point. But here is the often overlooked reality: Jesus clearly stated His divine origin and His divine commission. Not only that, Jesus was born of a virgin (as prophesied), the angels announced His birth (as prophesied), the shepherds recognized Him as the Messiah, as did the wise men from the east along with Simeon and Anna when Jesus was brought to the temple. (Luke 2) The revelation of Jesus as Messiah was quite clear at this time. It was the opposition of the religious leaders that was the source of the confusion. The voice of tradition was very loud in the hearts of the people.
What about your heart? Is your faith based on what others have told you to believe or have you personally become convinced of the Truth that has been revealed?
What speaks louder in your life: the voice of tradition or the revelation of truth?

As Jesus has emphasized, your faith must become your own. Believe because you have become convinced of the truth. It is this kind of faith that stands strong in the face of opposition, trials and tribulation. It is the faith proclaimed in the hymn:
But “I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

Know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 7:15-25

“The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? ” (John 7:15–25, NIV)
When we encounter something amazing, something that is outside of our normal experience, we begin to look for an explanation. This was the case as Jesus began teaching in Jerusalem.
He purposefully delayed his arrival to the feast so as not to create a scene, and at the time God determined, he began to quietly teach among the people. Over time, more and more gathered to listen to Jesus and they were “amazed”.
“There must be an explanation. How did Jesus come to know the truths he spoke so clearly and with such authority? What Rabbinical school did He attend?”
This is a logical question. Every Rabbi (Jewish Teacher) was educated by a certain school. Not unlike today, they were often assessed by the “school” they attended.
“Oh, he graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary or Masters or (insert your favorite seminary here).”
Where you went to school gave you the necessary credibility to teach among the people. But here’s the problem: Jesus didn’t go to school. He was uneducated. The truth He taught was not passed to Him from other people.
“Well, then he must be a prodigy. He was self taught and learned all that he knows from endless hours of studying with exceptional devotion. Jesus must be a genius.”
No…Jesus was not self taught. If he was, the attention would be directed away from His father and would be centered on the child prodigy. The goal of Jesus was to honor His Father, not Himself.
What Jesus proclaims is that He was “God taught”. The truth He teaches did not originate with Him or with other men. What He taught originated with the Father. The words of Jesus were the words of God. No wonder they were “amazing”!
But the Jews could not allow themselves to believe what they could not explain. They had no room for faith. They had an explanation for everything and they had developed a habit of trusting in themselves to the point that they were unwilling to accept the testimony of Jesus and the truth He spoke as directed by God.
In a similar way, we too can miss the truth of God when we develop the habit of judging what we believe based on a certain school of thought. We can work hard to have an explanation for everything that we deem spiritually important and any suggestion outside of our box of understanding becomes “demon possessed” and unworthy of consideration. The result is that we too leave no room for faith and are at equal risk of missing the truth of God.
Look at the life of Jesus. Listen to what He taught. Follow the truth of His message. In Him is the truth of God and our only hope is trusting in Him.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. ” (Proverbs 3:5–7, NIV)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - Jn 7:1-14

“After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him. Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where is that man?” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. ” (John 7:1–14)

“Lord, give me patience. And give it to me now.”
Sound familiar? How easy it is for us to wrongly assume that God should operate on our terms. That somehow we know what is best for us and if He would just cooperate, everything would turn out to be OK.
This was the opinion of Jesus’ brothers who try to convince Jesus that it would be best for Him to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles in order to make a public demonstration of His amazing miracles. It seemed to be a reasonable suggestion for someone who needed to “show himself to the world”.
But why would Jesus’ brothers want Him to make a public display? Did they understand the significance of who Jesus was and what He came to accomplish?
The scripture answers that for us and tells us that they “did not believe in Him”. Therefore, the motivation of the brothers was not that of humble worship. They were out for personal gain. If Jesus puts on a show in front of huge crowds, he becomes a public spectacle. We’re talking “rock star” status here. And if I am his brother, I am one degree away from instant stardom. Lights! Camera! Action!
Yet notice how Jesus responds. “The right time for Me has not yet come; for you any time is right.”
How easy it is to follow Jesus on our terms. When we want something to happen, any time is right. Jesus becomes our “Genie in a bottle” and if we rub the lamp, He will grant us wishes of miraculous proportion.
But the humbling reality of this attitude is that it reveals a heart of selfish unbelief. For if we knew and understood that Jesus was God, then it would seem foolish to instruct the all knowing, all powerful, creator of the universe in what He should do in our lives. We would be the first to confess as Job did, ““You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. ” (Job 42:3, NIV)
A true heart of belief is one that rests in the hands of a sovereign God. Oh, we may pray for a miracle because we know He is capable. But we humbly submit to His timing and trust in His promise to work all things for good for those who love God. Rest in His promises and trust in His timing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - Jn 6:60-71

"On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)" (John 6:60-71)

Many of those who followed Jesus had reached a crisis of belief. They were initially drawn in by curiosity. There was an interesting man in town. Friendly, gentle and he had a way with words. He was the kind of person everyone wanted to meet and be around.
And then he began to do the miraculous - Feeding the 5000, healing incurable disease, turning water into wine. This is not an average man. There is more to Jesus than meets the eye.
His popularity grew to such an extent that large crowds would gather to hear Him teach. And here again, He captivated their attention. He told stories with intent and His message made you stop and think.
And then it got hard! His message became more direct and His claims more difficult to accept. He said, “I came from heaven as God’s provision for your deepest spiritual needs. If you believe in Me, you will never die.”
He was no longer the new friendly face in town who had a way with words. He was not just a miracle worker.
It was becoming increasingly clear that Jesus was asking people to move from shallow interest into to deep faith. If people were going to follow him now, they would need to abandon their own conclusions to the meaning of life and the source of peace and begin instead to trust in that which was being offered by Jesus.
It was a crisis of belief. They stood and waited. Will they follow him or will they walk away?
Many walked away. The faith required to follow Jesus was too much. It cost them something they were unwilling to relinquish. Namely, they could not bring themselves to trust in Jesus more than they trusted in themselves.
The large crowd now dwindled to a few.
And yet Jesus was not sad in this moment. Sadness comes from an unexpected tragedy and there was nothing that happened that Jesus didn’t already know was coming. People are predictable. We all want to be on the “winning team”, we like the latest fad. If a crowd gathers, we want to know what is happening…until it requires something from us.
For this reason, we all have our own crisis of belief. And Peter asks the question we all face in this moment. “Jesus, where would we go?”
We all have the same choice. We can choose to accept the claim of Jesus as the One who came from heaven to give us eternal life – OR – we can walk away and find the answer to our deepest needs through someone or something else. Either way, it is a step of faith – Faith in the promises of God or faith in your own ability to find answers apart from God.
What will you choose in your own crisis of belief?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - Jn 6:25-59

"When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum." (John 6:25-59)

There was always the temptation, and still is, to seek Jesus for something he can give you but not because of who He is. His reputation continues to grow, and now the crowd seeks him out. Specifically, they are hungry and they hear Jesus was known to feed people. So they show up for the free meal, literally.
Jesus confronts this reality and instructs the people to understand that food will spoil. It has a shelf life. And although they are hungry in their stomach, they are starving in their soul.
Jesus understands the distraction of food and takes the time to redirect their focus. And, since food is on their mind, he uses this as a metaphor to make His most important point: “I am the Bread of Life.”

It may seem like an odd statement to us as we read with full stomachs in our warm homes. Yet to these people who were hungry and looking for food, Jesus had their attention.
His claim was nothing short of amazing! “He who comes to me will never grow hungry.”
Well… who wouldn’t sign up for that?! A lifetime supply of food from Jesus. And not only that, Jesus said He would turn no one away! And all who come, without exception, will never be lost in the crowd or walk away disappointed!

This all sounded wonderful except for the part where Jesus said He came down from heaven. Well, they all knew why that could not be true because Jesus was the son of Mary and Joseph. The couple who lived in Nazareth, that had a baby they named Jesus, who is standing in front of them right now!
They were confused as they talked among themselves but no one dared to ask Jesus directly. Yet, they did not have to. He heard their grumbling and he went on to explain.

“I came from heaven because I am God and the food you seek that gives everlasting life is found through faith in me. But you must eat of this bread and this bread is my flesh.”

Now that’s strange! Those in the crowd responded just as we do in reading this statement from Jesus. We must eat His flesh? That makes no sense?

And so Jesus explains further: “Your forefathers were starving in the desert. They prayed, and God heard their cry. Manna (bread) fell from heaven and they ate until their stomachs were full. But the next morning, they were hungry again. This was the case every morning. And eventually, all of them would grow old and die as not a single one of those people stand before you today.”

Jesus brings it all together in the end and says, “Today, God has once again heard the prayer of His people and Bread has come down from heaven. I am that bread. If you believe in me and accept what I am telling you in faith and trust of my promise, you will have eternal life. And on the day your body dies, like a person who sleeps, I will wake you up to spend all of eternity with Me in heaven along with all those who follow in faith.”

This was the strongest and most difficult claim Jesus has made in His ministry thus far. With the utmost clarity, He has declared that He is God “with skin on”. He has come from heaven and is offering himself as the very sustenance of life. In essence, He is telling us, everything we need…everything – is found in Him. His life on earth exists to give life eternal.

Is your soul satisfied in Him?