Love

To Love One Another {Scripture Saturday}

11:00 PM




By Sandra Wyatt

Welcome to Scripture Saturday!  Today we continue our memorization of verses found in John with verses 15:12…

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

This love, that Jesus speaks about here, is very different than worldly love. We are to love, He says, “as I have loved you.” And what is true is that Jesus would never command us to do what is impossible for us to do.  We are to love in the same way that He loved His Father and in the way that made it possible for Him to love us.  In this same way we are to love one another… with the same quality of love. He loved us because God is love, and He was One with the Father. He was in the Father, and the Father in Him. As He yielded to that relationship, love flowed out. It could not help it--God is love. Since God is love, and as we yield to the Son, love flows from us. And it will have the qualities that His love has.

“So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1Cor 13:13)
“Let all that you do be done in love.” (1Cor 16:14)

Have a precious and blessed day everyone!

Jesus

Our Father’s Love is Revealed {John 17}

11:00 PM



By Mari Sandoval

Today we close an amazing week as we’ve become closer to our Lord Jesus Christ and His Ministry. On and on through this book (and this week) we’ve studied how Jesus taught His disciples with a living and loving example, and even at almost the very end of His Ministry, at the last Supper we read: “Now before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that His hour had come [and it was time] for Him to leave this world and return to the Father. Having [greatly] loved His own who were in the world, He loved them [and continuously loves them with His perfect love] to the end (eternally)” (13:1); “Then He poured water into the basin and began washing the disciples’ feet and wiping them with the towel which was tied around His waist.” (13:5); “14 So if I, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet as well. 15 For I gave you [this as] an example, so that you should do [in turn] as I did to you.” (13:14-15) Imagine the impact of these last words to His disciples as a command to them… and to us, too! But there is also a wonderful promise in doing so: “If you know these things, you are blessed [happy and favored by God] if you put them into practice [and faithfully do them].” (13:17)

I can imagine these men felt as if this was their “Graduation Day”! There were so many challenges to be met out there, but were they really prepared to conquer them on their own, without their Teacher and Lord?  Then Jesus continues encouraging them giving them words of HOPE and a FUTURE: “Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you.(14:1-4) And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [c]Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you.

Over and over we find Jesus, encouraging as He teaches His disciples to be in UNITY, through His Love in them: “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you [that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples. I have loved you just as the Father has loved Me; remain in My love [and do not doubt My love for you]. 10 If you keep My commandments and obey My teaching, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. 11 I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.” (15:7-11) Hearing these promises from Jesus must have been like fresh ointment to their weary heart!

“In that day you will not [need to] ask Me about anything. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name [as My representative], He will give you.” … “27 for the Father Himself [tenderly] loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from the Father.”  (16:23, 27)

As Jesus finished this discourse, He raised His eyes to heaven and prayed out loud to His Father: this is His last teaching in the form of a prayer. Jesus begins with a petition for the glorification of the Father and the Son (vs. 1-5), after which He prays for the disciples gathered around Him, first describing their situation (vs. 6-11) and then praying that they be protected and sanctified by the Father (vs. 11-19). Jesus then prays for all who will become believers through the witness of the eleven, that they may share in the UNITY of the Father and the Son: “I do not pray for these alone [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for [all] those who [will ever] believe and trust in Me through their message, 21 that they all may be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe [without any doubt] that You sent Me.” (vs.20-24).



In the last verses Jesus prays for a UNITY founded in love.23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected and completed into one, so that the world may know [without any doubt] that You sent Me, and [that You] have loved them, just as You have loved Me”, “and these [believers] know [without any doubt] that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them [overwhelming their heart], and I [may be] in them.” (vs. 23, 25-26).

 Jesus revealed the Love of the Father to us, through His love and obedience to Him (Heb. 5:7-12) The love the Father has for Jesus is the same love He has for us believers, indeed for the whole world (3:16)! “For "God is love" (1Jn 4:8, 16), and "there is only one love of God" The believers are to embody this love and thereby provide living proof of God's gracious character, which is his mercy, love and truth. They will be an advertisement, inviting people to join in this union with God. The love of God evident in the church is a revelation that there is a welcome awaiting those who will quit the rebellion and return home. Here is the missionary strategy of this Gospel--the community of disciples, indwelt with God's life and light and love, witnessing to the Father in the Son by the Spirit by word and deed, continuing to bear witness as the Son has done.“ (Brown 1970:772 – Bible Gateway)

 May this become a reality in our life, I pray in Jesus’s Name. Amen

Blessings!

Becky Bramlett Austin

When Trials Come, Take Heart {John 16}

12:00 AM




By Becky Bramlett Austin

We live in America, land of the free.  There is a church on almost every corner and we don't have to be afraid to declare our belief in Christ, read our Bibles or pray openly for one another.  We can freely meet together in church buildings, in each other's homes and even wear T- shirts, etc. that have printed scriptures on them or Christian symbols. We don't really know true persecution in this country for being a Christian, but that could change. In fact, Jesus put a lot of emphasis on warning the disciples that they could expect persecution because they believed in him.  As a believer in Christ, we must be prepared to face persecution too. The Bible portrays this persecution but it also portrays that we have God's help should we have to endure such trying circumstances.

Jesus reveals the source of persecution.  In Bible times, there would be rejection from the spiritual leaders who were zealous in their actions because they believed their hate was justified. Their hate, however,  would be a hate toward Jesus fueled by Satan and his deceptions.  They would in essence reject the love of God and fail to recognize their need of Jesus to save them from their sins.  Without the love of God in their hearts, their hatred toward the followers of Christ would be just as vindictive. 

“They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.”  (V2-3) It's sad that they think they serve God ( characterized by love) but in reality they are serving the Prince of Darkness ( characterized by hate).  No wonder Jesus pitied them.
So, the source of the persecution is in the spiritual realm, fueled by the "Prince of Darkness", the source of lies and hate. But, Jesus reveals that his followers will have spiritual help to endure this persecution. Jesus returns to the Father but the Holy Spirit is sent to Earth to indwell and empower us. “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (V7) 

The Holy Spirit has an important role. “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:” (v8) This Spirit, in opposition to the spirit of darkness will be a spirit of light and truth, teaching and equipping us for spiritual battle. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (V13-14)

It amazes me to study about the changes in the disciples when the Holy Spirit came. In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  What an amazing transformation from timid, fearful men in hiding to bold proclaimers of the gospel in spite of persecution.  Many of these disciples as well as other Christians in the Bible died as martyrs. 

It's not pleasant to deal with living in a world of evil and persecution but it's a reality that Jesus said we have to face and something he wants us to keep a spiritual view of. Interestingly, Jesus even placed a positive  perspective on persecution when he included it in the Beatitudes: BLESSED are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12) And in our reading today, he encouraged his disciples to focus on his return and a time when there would  be no more suffering or hatred but an abundant, never ending grace  He encouraged us all to remember that he has already overcome evil and to find comfort and hope in him.  

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”” (V33)

Honestly, persecution is not something I want to know.  But, I hope that if that circumstance comes my way, that I will embrace it with the same spiritual power and fortitude that the disciples had. I hope that I will keep an eternal perspective and not compromise my faith in a loving, all powerful God.  Oh, how this topic stirs within me a deep burning desire to be more consistent in my prayers for this country and the freedoms we so richly enjoy.

God's Promises

How Exactly Do We Abide? {John 15}

11:00 PM



By Sue Desmarais 

Many of us are at an advantage today as we read John, chapter 15, for all of us in the northern hemisphere are experiencing spring just now; when the promise of new life is bursting forth all around us! It was this same time of the year when Jesus spoke these words to His disciples.

Their dinner had ended and they were walking past flowering gardens and orchards, heading towards the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Have you ever walked past orchards when they’re in full bloom? The blossom’s scents can be over powering and are always more fragrant in the evening as life settles down. I believe Jesus, knowing He has only a few hours left before He will be arrested, tried and crucified once more takes something very familiar to all of them to drive home something terribly, terribly important; 

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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:1-7(emphasis mine)

It was verse seven that grabbed my attention and sent me on my detective mission this week, for that’s an awfully bold statement, don’t you think? Surely, Jesus doesn’t expect us to think of Him as a genie in a magic lamp. There had to be a catch, which could only be found in the word “abide”.  What exactly does He mean by “abide in Me, and My word abide in you”?

My first stop was to the dictionary where I discovered abide meant, “to accept without objection”, to "await," "remain," "lodge," "sojourn," "dwell," "continue," "endure”. Hmm.. I still wasn’t sure, for how does His word dwell, sojourn or continue in us? Some might say it’s through memorizing and meditating on God’s Word. Here are eight reasons John Piper came up with as to why we should be memorizing Scripture:

1.      Memorizing Scripture makes meditation possible at times when I can’t be reading the Bible, and meditation is the pathway of deeper understanding.
2.      Memorizing Scripture strengthens my faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ, and that happens when I am hearing the word in my head.
3.      Memorizing Scripture shapes the way I view the world by conforming my mind to God’s viewpoint.
4.      Memorizing Scripture makes God’s word more readily accessible for overcoming temptation to sin, because God’s warnings and promises are the way we conquer the deceitful promises of sin.
5.      Memorizing Scripture guards my mind by making it easier to detect error—and the world is filled with error, since the god of this world is a liar.
6.      Memorizing Scripture enables me to hit the devil in the face with a force he cannot resist, and so protect myself and my family from his assaults.
7.      Memorizing Scripture provides the strongest and sweetest words for ministering to others in need.
8.      Memorizing Scripture provides the matrix for fellowship with Jesus because he talks to me through his word, and I talk to him in prayer.

He has made a very good case, but I still wasn’t convince it was simply memorizing Scripture, for even the devil himself could quote Scripture when tempting Jesus in the wilderness, and the Pharisees had spent most of their lives memorizing Scriptures and just look what Jesus said to them in John 5:38, “You do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.”

Therefore, if the word is to abide in us, we must believe in the word and the one who spoke it, right? Somehow the words of Jesus must take root within, germinate in each us and bear the fruits of faith and holiness. In other words, they must find a home within not only our minds, but our hearts. Look what else Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.” (John 8:37). It was in their heads, but it had not settled in and taken root in their hearts.

So, how does God’s word find a home in some of us and not in others even though all are working to memorize the Scriptures?

I believe that answer is found in Jesus analogy of the true Vine and the branches. John 15:1-3 is our position in Jesus, the Vine. God the Father or Vinedresser grafts us in and also removes any branches that aren’t rooted and bearing fruit. Our responsibility comes in verse 4a, “Abide in me, and I in you” and the key to abiding is found in the verses that follow, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Abiding then must be believing, depending, and truly surrendering to His lordship in our lives. We’ve got to come to the point where we understand we are wholly dependent on Him for everything!

Mjr. W. Ian Thomas in his book, The Saving Life of Christ gave a great example using a glove. (We are the glove and Jesus the hand within the glove). Left alone the glove can do nothing but lie there, but when filled and controlled by the hand, the glove can do all the things the hand can do! However, each finger of the glove must also be surrendered for the hand to function properly. I’ve discovered over time, that abiding, depending, surrendering; whatever you’d like to call it is a moment, but moment occurrence. I can think I’m wholly surrendered one minute and then suddenly pride rears up and I’m seeking my way and will the next.  For example, I can offer my time, rights and all my possessions to the Lord and then suddenly I’m asked to host a party for all these families of unruly children and instantly my mind can start searching for a way to decline gracefully. The truth being, I hadn’t really surrendered to the Lord at all!



I’ve begun using this picture of my hand each morning as I sit before Him consciously surrendering each area and inviting Him to come fill me up completely and show me throughout the day areas I haven’t wholly surrendered to Him.


I’m finding there is a constant daily battle between my desire to be wholly surrendered and abiding in Him in order to be used by God, and my desire to have things my way, but I’m confident all of us will get there one day. However, it’s going to take a constant effort on our part to surrender or abide; which is why I believe Jesus exhorted us here in verse 7 to ask Him for anything we need along the way and He will supply it. It’s as simple as that!

O Father, You are holy, and o so worthy! All I am and all I have are gifts from You! Thank You, Father a thousand times- Thank You! My heart longs to abide; to leave all that I am and all that You've given me in Your omnipotent hands. I so much want to give You all my time, my talents, my loved ones, my rights, will, and reputation, my money and possessions, but You and I know I will quickly grab some back given the chance. So, may I grow more deeply and intimately in love with You each day in order to trust You with everything! O Father, may I become wholly Yours and abide in Your Son each moment of each day! Amen.

Jesus

The Way, The Truth and the Life {John 14}

11:00 PM


By Lisa Thayer

“I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (v. 6)

What is truth?  In the gospel of John, there are almost 50 references to truth – 13 in chapter 8!  I don’t want to get into a political debate because there’s a very fine line in politics about what is the truth.  We are surrounded by so many injections of what the truth is, we need a standard.  What do you use as a standard?  Do you follow a certain political platform?  Or person?  Perhaps you have a certain public figure.  Who do you follow?

I’ve brought up several times my personal interest in music.  I am not a professional musician in any way, shape or form, but at any performance or rehearsal, someone always begins the session by playing a note and everyone else tunes their instrument to that pitch.  Most of us do not have perfect pitch, so we have to listen and adjust our instruments to the pitch of the first player.  If we do not, then the music we play would be in discord.

In our world today the concept of absolute truth or a standard of truth has been discarded.  I often hear, “that’s your opinion”, or “everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, and we have to respect their opinion.”  And now we have a culture which is in chaos and confusion.  We find it difficult to convince people that Jesus is “The Truth.”  That He is our absolute truth, that He is what He claimed to be in John 14:6.

In the Old Testament when you see the word true or truth, it’s the Hebrew word Emeth, which means firmness or stability.  It’s not shakable.  It stands for faithfulness, sureness, reliability.  Truth is a key attribute of God.

“Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.  Psalm 51:6

“Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?  You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction.”  Jeremiah 5:3


God is looking for truth.  He is where you are right now, in your home, in your car, at your job, at your school.  He is looking for anyone who wants to have fellowship with Him.

“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?  Who may live on your holy mountain?  The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart.”  Psalm 15:1-2

How do we live in truth in our world today?  We are a fallen and sinful people.  Scripture tells us over and over that we don’t meet the standard.  Psalm 5:9 says, “Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice.”  Isaiah 59:14-15 says, “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance, truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.  Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.”  Jeremiah 9:3, 5 says, “They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies, it is not by truth that they triumph in the land.  They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me.  Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth.  They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning.” 

We are so out of tune!  What is the problem?  We are all liars, we twist the truth, we reject the truth, and we make up the truth.  Sometimes we even think we’re being truthful and in our hearts we are not.  We lie to ourselves, to others and to God.  We lie about ourselves, about others and about God.  We cannot fulfill the commands.  We do not and cannot tell the truth because from our hearts we are liars.  We are deceivers. 

Now don’t get discouraged here.  John 1:9 says, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” 

Jesus says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32

Jesus is the only person who has ever perfectly fulfilled God’s standard of truth.  In John 8:13- 32, Jesus introduced us to the fact that not only does He speak the truth, but that He IS the Truth.  Truth is a person – Jesus is Truth!

“Here in John 14:6, Jesus is saying He is exclusive.  He is not ‘a’ truth for some, any and everybody else can have their own truth.  Anything that is not of Jesus is not the truth.  Anything that is contrary to Him is not truth no matter how true you think it to be.  Jesus is the Truth and any belief, any religion, any worldview that does not embrace Jesus for who He says He is and what He said He came to do, then that is false.  There is no truth apart from Jesus who is the truth.” (Nancy Leigh DeMoss)

We have free-will and we can reject the Truth or we can receive the Truth.  Those who are godly love the Truth.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:8 that truth comes from the heart.


Where do we fit in as believers?  Our culture considers it intolerant to insist on a standard that everything and everyone has to adhere to.  We hear, “it’s okay for you to believe that, but how dare you say that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.”  We have a great intolerance today until it comes to people who believe in the exclusivity of Jesus, then all of a sudden that tolerance becomes intolerant.  There’s even a tendency in evangelical circles that pit truth against qualities such as love and mercy and grace.  We tend to exalt one over the other.  Some it is love exalted over truth, grace over truth, mercy over truth.  And truth always loses.


 And then there’s some Christians who claim to love truth, but show little love, little grace, little mercy.  Truth is not incompatible with love and mercy and grace.  God’s truth is never at the expense of mercy, and His mercy is never at the expense of truth.

Both are necessary.  Proverbs 16:6 says, “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for, through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.”  Do you have forgiveness from your sins?  It takes mercy and truth.  Psalm 85 gives us a picture of anticipating Christ.  God expressed His love and His heart for sinners by sending Jesus, the Truth to live among us.  Proverbs 14:25 says, “A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful.” 

We have so many distractors in the world in which we live.  We need a standard, a way to tune ourselves.  Jesus is going to outlive all the distractors.  We need to stay in tune and stay in the Word of God to know what is true.  All the other books, on the shelves are just distractors.  When you accept the truth, does your life look differently than before?  Do the people you surround yourself with see the difference in you because you speak and live by the Truth?  Can you handle the Truth? 




Jesus

Loving One Another {John 13}

12:00 AM



By Lisa Moore

When you think of Jesus what is the first thing that pops into your head?  For me it is His love.  His love that He so freely and joyfully gives to me.  A love that is so strong, He laid down His life to call me His own.  And I in return love Him.  But that isn't enough.  For Jesus wants more than my love, He wants me to love others with the same passion that I reserve for Him.  

John Chapter 13 begins with a humbling and beautiful example of the importance of love to Jesus.  As one of His last acts before His sacrifice on the Cross, the Lord knelt and began to cleanse the feet of the disciples.  Now some might think that what Jesus did wasn't a big deal.  He loved these men and called them friends.  Wouldn't you do the same for those you love?  But these were also the same men that Jesus knew would hurt, betray, and disappoint Him.  Knowing this, He still performed the task usually reserved for the lowliest slave in the house as an act of His love, and as an example of loving and serving others.

Throughout His life on earth, everything Jesus did He did in love.  And He made it perfectly clear that we are to do the same.  Especially when it comes to others.  In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus responds to the question of which is the greatest commandment.  "You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  On these two commandments depend the whole law and the Prophets."  Love is the foundation of the Law.  Loving God means loving all that God created.  Especially those created in His image.  This is the message echoed throughout the Bible and especially in the teachings of Jesus.  And no more is our love for the Lord evident than when we are loving others.

In vs. 34-35 Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you will also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  When we demonstrate Christian love, it distinguishes us from the rest of the world.  It is not through our doctrines, our big beautiful churches, our posts on Facebook, or our Cross necklaces that we are known as His disciples.  It is through our actions, and our love for others.  We are the ambassadors of the Lord and should reflect His character of love as told in 1 John 4:16.   "God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him."   

What Jesus is calling us to do isn't easy.  And undoubtedly as soon as you make a commitment to love others, along a person will come as a test to your resolve.  But God never calls us to go it alone, nor to do what He asks in our own strength.  Our strength comes from the power of the Holy Spirt.  And through this power we can follow the example of Jesus and serve others joyfully, and without the expectation of anything in return.  Even those who hurt, betray, and disappoint us.

The goal of the Christian walk is to become transformed into the image of Christ.  To mirror His unconditional love and to,  "....love one another, just as I have loved you.", (John 15:12)  Loving Jesus means humbling serving and loving others.  1 John 4:9-11 powerfully reminds us, "...God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love another."  



I love this explanation of what Christian love should look like by Rick Ezell.  "Love entails a cost.  It's gets its hands dirty.  It takes a chance.  It goes out on a limb.  It takes a gamble.  Love makes a statement and leaves a legacy.  It does the unexpected, surprising, and stirring.  It performs acts that steal the heart and leaves an impression on the soul."  That's the kind of Christlike love for others I want to have!  A joyful, humble, foot washing kind of love.  And not because I love Him, but because He loved me first

John

Abiding in His Word {Scripture Saturday}

7:26 AM




By Sandra Wyatt

Welcome to Scripture Saturday!  Today we continue our memorization of verses found in John with verses 8:31-32…

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”

The amplified version of these verses…

So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them, you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and Truth will set you free.
“A disciple is one who learns from a teacher. This learning is experiential—goes beyond learning facts. True discipleship involves becoming like the teacher in thought and action. In Jesus’ day, a disciple of a rabbi would live in close proximity to his rabbi over a long period of time. He would not only learn the rabbi’s teachings, but over time would learn how the rabbi thought—how he analyzed data and formed conclusions—how he conducted himself. The disciple would try to become as much like the rabbi as possible. That is what Jesus is asking us to do here. We are to learn from him and to become as much like him as possible.”

Truth and freedom are the blessings that Jesus offers those who“ abide in (His) word” (v. 31). Something excellent happens when we remain in Jesus’ word. In the early years of our faith, we understand only a little, but as we “hold fast to (His) teaching and live in accordance with them“ our understanding and faith grow.

“Unlike our physical vision which dims with age, our spiritual vision grows clearer as we remain in His word over a period of time. We often see that kind of deep spirituality demonstrated in the lives of older Christians whose lives, in spite of the hardships associated with growing older, have a settled, peaceful quality. It is not simply that they have gained more and more knowledge about the bible, but that their lifetime journey of faith has taught them what they could never have learned from a book. They have grown in faith by studying the bible, but they have also grown in faith by walking with Jesus. Their walk with Jesus has made them free.” (various authors)
May we all be true disciples of Jesus!

Have a precious and blessed day everyone!

Angie Benjamin

A Wasted Life, Unbelief and Hardened Hearts {John 12}

2:07 AM

By Angie Benjamin

 Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany (vs 1-7)




1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5"Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, "Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."

This is story tells us how not to waste your life. It’s also a story about motivation: why do you do what you do for the Lord? Do you serve Him for the satisfaction you get when you see results? It is satisfying to see Him use you, but that’s the wrong motivation. Do you serve Him because it helps others? Again, it’s gratifying to see others helped, but that’s the wrong motivation for serving Him. The true motive for serving Christ is because He is worthy of everything you can do for Him and because you love Him and want to please Him because He gave Himself for you on the cross. We learn this from Mary’s act of devotion.

John contrasts Mary’s act of devotion with Judas’ self-centered focus and with the evil plans of the chief priests, who now not only want to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus, whose resurrection was resulting in many believing in Jesus. So the story’s lesson is:

A life spent in selfless devotion to Jesus is not wasted, but a life spent on self is totally wasted.

The Unbelief of the People (vs. 36-43)




When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
"Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
40 "He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them."
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

Jesus had performed many miracles but still many people didn't believe in Him. The same happens today, many won't believe despite all God does.

People would not believe despite the evidence, as a result God hardens their hearts...at the beginning sounds like if it's God intentionally preventing these people from believing in Him but no, it simply means that He confirms their own choices. After a lifetime resisting God people become so set in their ways that they won't even bother to understand Jesus message.

Sometimes we get discouraged when we witness for Christ and it doesn't necessarily turn out as we would like. We must remember that our job is simply to be a faithful witness. We are responsible to reach out to others, but they are responsible for their own decisions, so keep up the good and faith-full work !



Jesus Came to Save the World (vs.44-50)




44 And Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me."

He came into the world as light [vs46 and John 3:19 -21; 8:12 ; 9:5]. To believe in him, to believe the claims he made about his true identity, is to finally see and believe in God. The deep darkness of separation from God and ignorance of God is here dispersed. The age-long, world-wide questions about who or what God is are here answered. No one who believes in Jesus remains in darkness.

His miracles identified him as God. They should have believed on the basis of the miracles alone [ 12:37 ]. His words have identified him as God, and, he says, it will be those very words, which they have rejected, that will condemn them, for in rejecting his words they have rejected the words of God.

In refusing to accept his words [ ‘believing’ his words, ‘obeying’ his words, ‘keeping’ his words] they have rejected God. His words which could have brought them light and life, will, if they are rejected, bring them only judgment and darkness. To reject the offer of light is to choose the darkness. To reject the offer of salvation is to choose judgment [ 12:38 -40, 47-50].


Becky Bramlett Austin

I Am the Resurrection and the Life {John 11}

4:10 AM



By Becky Bramlett Austin

The story of Lazarus reveals such a tender portrayal of Jesus.  It shows us a Jesus who connects with us in our struggles, hardships, and grief.  It also reveals that even our difficult experiences serve a divine purpose meant to glorify God.   “But when Jesus heard it (that Lazarus was ill) he said“This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." (V4) It's not an easy thing to accept when illness afflicts or tragedy strikes but even our difficult times should be embraced with a desire to see God glorified.  This is not a perfect world and we are not immune to suffering just because we are God's children but how we react to our suffering is always an opportunity for others to see God as the source of our strength.

The following 2 verses seem strange and contradictory:
“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (V5-6) If someone came to you and told you that a loved one were very ill, wouldn't your first reaction be to drop everything and immediately go to them? Clearly, Jesus had reasons for delaying. One of his objectives was to strengthen the belief of his disciples. “Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”” (V14-15) We have read before of 2 other occasions when Jesus raised from the dead but these bodies were raised soon after death before decay set in.  Lazarus was in the sealed tomb 4 days. This raising of the dead could not be shrugged off as chance or other explanation.  This would be a true conquest over the destructive forces of death.  

Jesus loved Mary and Martha and he wanted to increase their belief too.  Both of them already believed in him as a healer for they both told him that Lazarus would not have died if he had been there to heal him.  Jesus wanted them to know Him in an even grander capacity.  He didn't want to just be their healer, but to be their  resurrection and life. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?””(v25-26)
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Even though Jesus knew that he would raise Lazarus back to life, he was still deeply affected by the sorrow and sadness of those who mourned.  In fact, he also wept.  God is not insensitive and unconcerned about our sorrows and concerns.  In fact, in Rev 4 we are told that when Jesus returns that " He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  

Could you imagine being at the entrance of that tomb expecting only death's foul stench to overwhelm you? Martha was certainly concerned.   “Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?"" (V40).  How powerful our belief can be.  When we trust In God- trust His timing, trust his love and concern for us, trust his sovereign control over all circumstances, and trust that he can negate the destructive decay of death and sin, then we get to see....His power, His glory, His compassion, His mercy, and grace. 

Could you imagine Jesus calling " Lazarus come forth".   How amazing and joyous it must have been to see a dead man walk out of that tomb into the daylight.  Spiritually, we are all sealed in a tomb of death and Jesus calls our name too.  He died to free us from the power of death and He calls us out of that dark tomb into the light of eternal life. Have you heard that call from Jesus?  Have you chosen new life?  Do you know Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life?

John

The Door to an Abundant Life {John 10}

10:30 PM



By Sue Desmarais

Have you ever watched a game show where the contestants are asked to trade in what they have already received for what’s hidden behind another door on stage? The contestants agree hoping, or believing that what’s hidden is better than what they have at the moment, but… it doesn’t always turn to be the case. I think about that scenario every time I read this passage and used to wonder why others would reject this “door” altogether:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:1-11
John, who wrote this book, never added the chapters and verses to it, and I’m not sure why whoever did add the chapter breaks, ended chapter 9 where they did, because when Jesus in 10:1 says, “Truly, truly…” He’s connecting what He’s about to say with what has just taken place in chapter 9; where Jesus healed the man born blind. Jesus is going to address the fact that the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders in Israel, should’ve been faithful shepherds over God’s flock, but had failed miserably, and the story of this blind man is a great example of this when they grew frustrated with the man’s testimony about Jesus and actually threw him out of the temple; never once rejoicing over the fact that this man could now see!

We actually need to back up to Ezekiel 34:1-31 to truly understand what Jesus is saying in chapter 10. (I’ll try to condense it a bit for you):

“And the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.--  therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against the shepherds…and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep… As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them… And I will bring them out…, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them… I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord GOD. …I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them…”

Chapter 10 is the end of Jesus teaching ministry; the rest of the Book of John will describe the events that took place during Jesus’ final week on earth. I wonder if Jesus sensed a greater urgency to get His message out to His people, for surely if you knew your opportunity to convince others of something so, so important was ending, wouldn’t you try that much harder?  

Jesus is saying here that He is the true Shepherd; the One God spoke of in Ezekiel 34. He is the Messiah, the One who fulfills all the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him.

 He is the “door” and I believe, though some might not agree, that the “doorkeeper” must be John the Baptist, for “as David was designated the king of Israel by the prophet Samuel, so also Jesus, the Son of David, was designated Israel’s King by John the Baptist.

I used to read this passage and wonder why others didn’t choose Jesus as the “door” to abundant life. Why instead, would they pick up stones to stone Him? Why wouldn’t they want to follow the “Good Shepherd”, or why would they turn away after a time?

This time however, I found the answers right here in the chapter! The first is found in verses 14-16,“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (Emphasis mine)

They choose to follow Him because they are His sheep and they “know His voice”. They recognize Him as the Messiah, and trust in Him as their Shepherd. These sheep, who belong to the true Shepherd, also know better than to follow any false shepherd.

Then again in verse 27-30, Jesus assures us that all His sheep will be kept safe, for no one can “snatch them” away from Him, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)


Today, if you are one of the Shepherd’s sheep, give Him thanks that you heard His call, recognized His voice, followed after Him and are now cared for and kept safe by the Good Shepherd! Hallelujah!