Friday, October 29, 2010

Just Another Prophet? Not Hardly! - October 29, 2010

Good Friday morning! Um, hmm, kinda looking like the Texas Rangers might as well have stayed home for the World Series. I remember not so long ago a year in which our Colorado Rockies went to that same series and came home after losing the first four games. I hate to see teams go to the series and not even win one game. In more important news, a volcano erupted in Indonesia AND they suffered a tsunami. Of course after the 2004 tsunami they had that early warning system put in to save lives... didn't work, the needed maintenance was allowed to lapse in the past few years. Several places in the Bible warn us to remain on our guard or to be watchful, but we often see examples of that failure to remain watchful in our world. More often than not, someone else dies or suffers when the watch is allowed to lapse. If we as Christians are to be watchful, guess we had better stay on it!

"Sir," the woman said, "you must be a prophet." John 4:19

Nicodemus called him a teacher, and now this woman has deduced that he is a prophet, but is that all we can say about Jesus? The Mohammedans say that Jesus is one of the prophets, and the Mormons say that Jesus is one of the sons of God. The problem is the 'one of the...' part. We wouldn't call Jesus one of the disciples because it would be nonsensical to follow himself. Jesus is more than a prophet, for he sent the prophets. Jesus is the Son of God, not one of the sons. Jesus is Messiah!

On the other hand, give the woman some credit, she is starting to catch on. The prophets were a kind of national treasure to the Israelites, even though they did at times treat their treasure like trash. The prophets had vanished from the land for about 400 years before John the Baptist and Jesus showed up in Judea. Jesus has exposed this woman's life; he must be a prophet... good news! However, Jesus is more than a prophet as we have read in John thus far. We like to label things, just like this woman is doing with Jesus. The problem with that lies in using the wrong label, one that doesn't tell the whole story in this case. We know from our Bible reading that Jesus is more than a prophet. Jesus would be treated like the prophets of old, but much worse. We can read the reason Jesus went to the cross...later in John! I'm trying to skip ahead again. Can I go back a bit? I think the reason Jesus died for us starts with, "For God so loved the world..."

Speaking of labels: You and I are more than our jobs. I'm glad of that since my last job tossed me out! Your job title is not your label. What might it be like if Christians answered "What do you do for a living?" with: "I follow Christ!" Last night we finished our final lesson in the Bible study series we have worked on for the past 8 weeks. Yes, I was glad to teach the series, but as often happens, including in writing the devotionals, I think that I learned much more than I taught. My first thought isn't, "I'm glad it's over!" but more like, "Let's do this again!" Anyway, part of last night's lesson was in putting our eyes on where our provision really comes from in this life. I'll admit that at one time my mouth answered, "God", but my actions and heart said, "my own effort." Who gave me the ability to put forth that effort for my employer? Where is my financial security coming from? Certainly not from me!

Have a wonderful Friday in Christ!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Not So Opposite - October 28, 2010

Good Thursday morning! The wind seems to have blown out my Weather Channel Desktop. That's a new one! Now the little thing is hung; must be a Windows program! We are at a balmy 25°F this morning, just the thing for a bracing walk in the morning light. I like how the notice comes up about "checking for a solution" and then... nothing! Apparently there is no solution; it's just another one of those Windows vs. the application problems. Ah, we do live in a world full of imperfect software. Praise God for the new day!

More information on the woman at the well this morning. Jesus could speak this very line to many women and with a couple of modifications to just as many men in our time.

"- for you have had five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!" John 4:18

On the other hand, this is a good reminder that the divorce problem as we see it didn't begin last year. The verse does not say what happened to the five husbands or what caused the separation. We tend to think the woman is promiscuous by the fact that she is shacked up with yet another man. I'm struck by the impression that this woman seems to be my polar opposite. She's a woman, I'm a man, to get past the obvious; I have never been married, she has five former husbands and is living with a potential sixth; and yet, we both have come to Jesus in our sins and he knows all about us. Perhaps all of us on this earth are not so opposite as we might like to think?

We have a tendency to holler "shame!" at this woman at the well when we read about all the husbands. We tend to miss that she is standing before Jesus confessing her sins with the Son of God! What have you done lately to match this? This woman has no place to hide her sin; she is standing right at Jesus' feet. We have no place to hide our sin either, but we do try at times. After Adam had sinned against God, he hid in the bushes. Many years later, this woman, whose name we never get, stands before Jesus and faces the fact of her sin. Jesus could spell out all your sins for you as well, but do we need to wait for that? Confess, repent, and receive forgiveness. I hope practice makes perfect, because I seem to be doing that a lot in my life.

Have a great day in Christ!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Might As Well Admit It - October 27, 2010

Good Windysday morning! Other parts of the country have suffered some serious damage from the wind and storm; we have been blown about pretty good, but I think that we escaped the damage. Today is supposed to be another windy day; hang on to your britches! A what? From who? One of those e-mail notifications caught me off guard there. Must be something from one of those big companies trying to sell me more stuff. I think that I had better just hang on until next year. Is that a winning attitude? Hang on? How 'bout we just see what Christ has in store for me over the next couple of months? For today, let's stick with this one new verse in our study of John

"I don't have a husband," the woman replied.
Jesus said, "You're right! You don't have a husband - " John 4:17

Why would Jesus send the woman to get her husband when he well knew that she didn't have one? Yes, we know the story, but one verse at a time; no jumping ahead to the next verse! Many times in my days as a Marine, someone used this same tactic on me. The higher ranking fellow, an NCO or Staff NCO, would tell me to go fetch something knowing already that I had left it somewhere unsecured. As a fresh recruit - okay, sometimes it happened after that too - I would scurry about searching fruitlessly for the lost item while it slowly dawned on me that someone had already found it; that same someone who had sent me to fetch the item. There is something about that tactic that gets your mind focused on the fault in question. You can try to lie about it; probably you will feel the urge to do just that, but what would be the use. You know that the other person, Jesus in this woman's case, already knows that you are in the wrong. There is nothing to do but acknowledge your fault and accept the judgment.

Although I tried to keep a low profile in boot camp, I did have to face the judgment at times. This woman does well by not denying that she has no husband. A person might be able to hoodwink a drill instructor (unlikely) or some other human judge, but Jesus knows the truth. No sense trying to get anything over on Him! While it is better to obey God out of our love for Him, sometimes we obey His command to not lie by sizing up the situation and realizing that it would only compound the error and get us deeper into trouble. Not the best path to admit the truth, but I will admit that I have told the truth under those very conditions once or twice back in the day. Now that Jesus has the woman right where he wants her, admitting the truth and standing before Him, what will he do with her? As you and I both know from the story of the woman at the well, there is more sordid truth to come out yet. We may fall into a similar situation in our own lives.

You mean that once we admit the truth to Jesus there could be more to confess? At my salvation, I would very much have liked that moment to have been the end of my sin. It wasn't. For years now I have been coming back to the Lord to confess more sin. I don't want to sin anymore, but I do it at times. As with the woman, there is no sense trying to deny it, cover it up, lie about it, or avoid the truth in any other way. God already knows about it; I might as well admit it and seek His forgiveness yet again. Yes, it would be better to trust in the strength of the Holy Spirit, run from or resist temptation, and obey God out of love, but this is after I have already blown that part. We do at times obey God by repenting and seeking forgiveness after we have been caught disobeying him and falling into sin. Not the best way, but in case you might be thinking that you are the only one, I'll have to admit to being in that club too. Praise God for His mercy and grace!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Opportunity to Obey - October 26, 2010

Good Tuesday morning... and windy and cold Tuesday morning too! Welcome to our first three days that show a promise that, yes Virginia, there will be a winter this year. The turn has come and I am back to writing. Each day I am still learning just what this new life in Christ will bring. I reckon that learning will continue for a while. Praise God for that learning, because I surely need it!

Today, our woman at the well near Sychar has not quite grasped what Jesus means by the living water. I can imagine Jesus growing a little impatient, rubbing his brow a bit and saying with a touch of exasperation:

"Go and get your husband," Jesus told her. John 4:16

What I imagine would be wrong though. Jesus wasn't impatient with this woman; that is me putting my own weakness on to what I think Jesus would have done. I would have been impatient with this woman, but we know that Jesus wasn't impatient with those who didn't know and had some trouble grasping His new message. We have all been there. Jesus did come down on those who should have known better, the Pharisees and scribes who studied the scriptures daily. Jesus even teased Nicodemus a bit with his, "You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don't understand these things?" Jesus must have another reason for sending this woman to get her husband.

Husbands and wives go together. This might seem obvious to those who have been married for some time, or worse, it might seem wrong to those who have been married for some years. I need to remind myself of it from time to time. I read yesterday about a political candidate from Florida who spoke at a men's meeting about bearing in mind the verses about honoring and respecting your wife; loving her as Christ loved the church. As men, we want to grab onto the verse about wives submitting to their husbands. Even as a single fellow I can see where men might try to use that verse to win arguments. "The Bible says that you are to submit to me," the man states. "So I win the argument..." goes left hanging in the air. We know (at least we should know) that it doesn't work that way. The Apostle Paul was not trying to force wives into slavery; they were pretty much there already in Paul's time. Jesus did much to set women free from the view of women as a man's property and Paul continued this by reminding us to love as Jesus loved. Meaning that you, me, and this woman's husband were to love a wife (that leaves me out at the moment) with the sacrificial kind of love that Jesus had for his bride: the church.

A man will not hurt or abuse his wife when he loves her as Jesus loved us. Many of the problems we face in this world would be fixed on the spot if all husbands loved and respected their wife as Jesus loved the church. Many more problems would be fixed if single men, and this does include me now, would respect women as Christ loved his church. By that I mean that as Christ loved his church, he did not force anything on us. I refer to "us" as the church, the body and bride of Christ. After we choose to believe in Christ and submit everything to him, we are not forced to tithe, to attend church, to spread the Good News, or any other thing that Christ commanded us to do. Commanded is not the same as forced. Jesus doesn't stand over anyone with a whip. You and I can refuse to obey Christ's commands even though we are saved. And you and I both know that we do at times. However, with the Holy Spirit within our hearts and minds, we do want to obey every command of Christ.

Jesus commanded this woman to get her husband. She can refuse; the choice is available to her and her obedience is not in any way forced upon her by Jesus. Like us, she has the choice to obey or to refuse. Which way will she go? Which way will you and I go at our next opportunity to obey Christ?

To God be the glory!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Are You Sure About That? - October 25, 2010

Good Monday morning! I am glad to be here today, and I hope that you are as well. We have a great opportunity to serve Jesus and build the church as we grow in Christ. Have you ever looked at another person's or group's situation and said something like, "Whew, they really messed up there!" We do it more often than we would like. When a major Christian organization or ministry has financial or other troubles, we tend to judge them in the space of a moment. Do we know all the facts? Does our judgment fit the situation? It is unlikely that we will know all facts and we do know that God is in charge, even when He lets that person, group, or our very own self, mess up in a big way. In any of those cases, there may have been no mistake at all. Job lost his family, fortune, and possessions while doing nothing wrong. Any of us may go through a time of intense trial at any moment. Some of those times we have done nothing wrong and our only option is to trust in God. Then we judge our own trials in the same way; "Must have messed up somewhere for things to be going so badly!" Are you sure about that?

What does our woman at the well have to say to Jesus' offer of living water today?

"Please, sir," the woman said, "give me this water! Then I'll never be thirsty again, and I won't have to come here to get water." John 4:15

Like Nicodemus in chapter 3, this woman doesn't understand what it is that Jesus is offering. She sees a wonderful magic in this living water; a water that quenches her physical thirst forever and removes her need for drinking, washing, cooking, and all other types of water usage. While that would be some nice water to have, Jesus was not offering a way to permanently remove our earthly, physical needs. We have the Gospels; it's easy to look at this woman's story and judge her in a negative way. More than likely you and I would have done no better than Nicodemus or the woman of Sychar in the same situation. Jesus had a new message that people struggled to understand. Even today, with the Gospels in hand, we might struggle with thoughts like, "When am I going to feel saved?" That bubbling spring of living water within us is not going to be connected to a spigot on our naval so that we can run around the Sahara watering thirsty camels.

"Hey there, Mr. Camel! Check out the spigot Jesus gave me. Here have a nice, refreshing drink of living water!"

Meeting people on the street.
"Got your spigot there I see. Glad to know you've been saved. Praise God!"

Nope, we still go on faith just as all of our heroes did in the Bible. We don't get to judge others on
whether they have a spigot of living water on their navels. Instead, we must obey the command: Love your neighbors as you love yourself.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Never Thirsty Again - October 23, 2010

Good Saturday morning! May God be glorified in all that we do today! Hoo boy, I just saw that our high school football team ended the season at 0-9. I can recall some of what it was like to be on a losing team for a season and it's not fun. If you know the coach or some team members, you might want to give them some encouragement today or next week. An oh-fer season is tough on the whole team. I have a "restart me" notice popping up on the computer this morning. What an irritant! Writing can be difficult enough without that going on. What does today's verse bring us?

"But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life." John 4:14

Of course everyone is going to want this water. But are we going to miss the meaning of Jesus here? The first clue is the fresh, bubbling spring within; regular water doesn't do that. We cannot drink even the best water on earth and have some kind of internal spring start up within us. The water we have here does not give eternal life; not even the water Mr. Ponce de Leon was looking for in Florida. Jesus must be speaking of some other kind of water; a fruit of the Spirit that we cannot see or grasp.

It is interesting that so much of what we seek in this world could be described as a thirst. We seek more drink, more food, more sex, more companionship, more shelter, more money, more of this and that, and yet none of it satisfies. If you enjoy time with another person, a good thing for sure, that other person will still need time alone and time to enjoy other people. We cannot have anyone all the time, and we are left unsatisfied. Food and drink are quickly consumed, money is a vaporous thing, and new stuff quickly becomes old stuff. Even the somewhat permanent things in life, like a house, are actively falling apart even as we sit in them. Any of us can also be stuck with a HOUSE at any moment through a change in circumstances. Sorry, I've been watching those old movies again. HOUSE - Home Of Unsupportable Size and Expense. In other words, we might have to move out of our home due to circumstances we couldn't see coming a few years back. Thirsts in this world are satisfied only temporarily, we must drink daily and almost constantly of many things. A thirst for God's word is a good thing and we should be coming back for more, but most things that we thirst for are constant needs that drag us back to earth.

We want that which satisfies and that drink that leaves us never thirsting again. However, we also have learned that what Jesus offers is not of this world. He is the only source, the Holy Spirit is the fountain within us, God is the Provider. I can't grab a bucket of this water and pour it in you; you can't take a cup and give it to someone else, but Jesus is ready to give this water to all who will ask.

Let us look forward to more words from Jesus next week!


Friday, October 22, 2010

The Living Waters - October 22, 2010

Good Friday morning! The morning is starting on a day of change for the weather. We have been warned about not one, but two low pressure systems arriving over the next few days. So, from here on out... there's no reason not to write the devotional! Whoo hoo! I wonder if we'll get any snow out of all this weather coming our way? Wednesday afternoon, the new business was born. Awaken the Dawn, LLC just bought all of my photography equipment and my PC; I hope the manager will let me use it. I had to sign pieces of paper that listed me as the manager, sole proprietor, and all manner of weird sounding titles. Several times I wanted to look around behind me for some more authoritarian-looking fellow to sign the papers. The even stranger part was to realize that legally-speaking, I'm like two or three different entities now as owner, manager, and employee of the business.

The good news is that now that I'm the boss of this writer and photographer, I can tell him to get to work! The slackin' thing has been making some good coffee lately though.

That boss fellow sounds pretty firm, I better get on with the devotional! I do appreciate him mentioning my coffee; compliments didn't come nearly often enough back in the day.

Today, we have a new verse. Hmm, seems like yesterday we read an interesting verse too. What does God's word have in store for us today?

Jesus replied, "Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again." John 4:13

The woman at the well was proud of the town's water, and she missed the point of living water that Jesus spoke about. She didn't have our advantage in reading the Gospels, but does the Bible, her scriptures, mention living water in what we call the Old Testament?

Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, 4:15
A fountain of gardens, A well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon

Jeremiah 2:13
"For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters..."

This one is very telling, combine this with the verse that comes before and you read:
"Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be very desolate, " says the Lord, "For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters..."

This is one of the few times, perhaps the only time, that some group, the heavens in this case, is told to be horribly afraid! The Lord has also called himself the fountain of living waters. Jesus' statement to the woman should not have been so surprising in light of what the prophet Jeremiah had said. I had wondered myself if this was the first time that living water was mentioned in relation to the Lord, but no, God had already told man about the living waters. Of course, God is referred to as the living God many times before this starting in Joshua according to my concordance. Let's continue on!

Jeremiah 17:13
O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You shall be ashamed.
"Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters."

Once more, the reference to living water should have set the woman's heart to leaping, but she is concentrating on her immediate need. We do much the same. I can recall many years before Jesus saved me that my life could only be referred to as, "The Me Show." This is not at all unusual! Certainly being saved as we like to say is not only getting saved from sin and the world, but getting saved from our selves. However, as many times as God was called, "the living God" in the scriptures, the living water shouldn't have been so surprising. Living and life are very important to God, if I can go by the many times I see Paul and the Old Testament use that same title for God. Certainly the living God stands in a different light than all those dead idols.

And finally, in a section where Zechariah speaks of the great day of the Lord just before the end of the Old Testament:

Zechariah 14:8
And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur.

Notice that in the great day of the Lord, summer and winter will still happen. The next statement really brings it home though: And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be - "The Lord is one" and His name is one. Zech 14:9

To God be the glory, that is a way to go into the weekend!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

His Animals? - October 21, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Flirting with the freezing mark again, but not quite there yet. 2010 is definitely easing us into the winter, but arrive it will. What does the lady at the well have to say this morning?

"And besides, do you think you're greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?" John 4:12

First she questions his lack of tools, and then his word. Finally, she wants to know who does Jesus think he is, and how in the world he can offer better water than her own historical well. My first question was, "What do the animals have to do with it?" It's like the woman is assembling a cast of thousands on her side, even to the point of calling down generations of sheep and goats as witnesses. I wonder what has gone on in this woman's life that makes her so ready to argue? I can imagine Jesus answering with something like, "Animals? What do the animals have to do with it?" Okay, maybe I'm the only one who would be distracted by the animals in her question. That well must have been a good one though to last for centuries watering Jacob, his sons, and his animals. Of course, the woman at the well might have made a good trial attorney too: "30 generations of animals agree that this well is good, you honor! It has been handed down to us by Jacob and his sons and his animals!"

My Bible notes say that the well was a deep hole where the water seeped up from rain and dew. I don't know how they know this, but perhaps the well was more than that in Jacob's day. The spring that fed the well in ancient times may have been lost long ago, or the artesian water dried up over the centuries. While I have learned not to question the Bible, the study notes made many centuries later are fair game. We don't know what may have made this well so good, but we do know this Samaritan woman was proud of her heritage from Jacob. We also know that God gives all things good to us, and that whatever mechanism makes the well so good is not as important as giving thanks to God is. We shouldn't miss the message of Jesus by wondering about the mechanism...or the animals. Like this woman, we also have a tendency to question the messenger when the message seems beyond our understanding.

If a person came to your town and presented an odd-looking device saying, "This will provide clean, green, power to your town forever!" We would immediately start questioning where the device came from, what exactly the mechanism and energy source was, how safe the device might be, and many other questions. It might take a child to ask the obvious: How do we connect to it? Jesus brought a new message to town about eternal life. People like Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman didn't get it right away, but we can learn from their lack of understanding when Jesus takes the time to explain this new message of His. What we need to make sure other people know is how to connect to this life changing message that Jesus brings to all of us.

Glory to God on this fine Thursday morning!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quick to the Smart; Slow in the Understanding - October 20, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Off to Bayard this morning for a quick pick-up in the pickup so to speak. I did see the temp hit 32° this morning when I got up. Autumn is slowly coming in; I can't recall a more gentle and gradual arrival than this year's. This morning I started off with a prayer for the Lord to use me as He wills. I immediately thought of the trouble that I would be in if I said that in the world on a regular basis. Can you imagine walking around a public place like a major airport and telling strangers to "use me as you will"? Of course, any of us would be in a whole lot of trouble in a short time by doing something foolish like that. On the other hand, most of the answers would go something along the lines of, "What?! Scram weird one!" We just don't do that to anyone but God the Father in our prayers. Who do we trust completely, if not yet perfectly, with our lives? God!

Will the woman at that well near Sychar find someone to trust in this morning? Let us read on.

"But sir, you don't have a rope or a bucket," she said, "and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?" John 4:11

Oho, once again we run into a very smart individual who just doesn't get what Jesus is saying. We have all the answers in our worldly intellect...until we run into Jesus and find out that we really don't have the important answers to death, life, and life eternal. Nicodemus tried to tell Jesus what and who Jesus was; now this woman is pointing out everything that Jesus is lacking. I would like to think that I would have simply listened, perhaps saying something like, "Yes, Lord, I'm listening." But the truth is, I would have done much the same thing. We have a great temptation to think how smart we are when we can jump on an obvious shortcoming or seeming error in another person's statement. However, while people did try that with Jesus, not one was ever correct in doing so. And by babbling when they should have been learning, they might have missed a chance to learn the very secrets we all need to know.

As Paul reminds us at the end of Romans, these secrets have all been revealed in Christ. However smart the other persons were at the time, Jesus patiently explained the Good News to Nicodemus and the disciples that we know of. Will he explain patiently to this woman? Probably so, for our Lord is very patient with all of us, just as he proved time after time in the Bible. We can expect some interesting and wonderful answers in the verses to come.

Have a wondermous day in Christ!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We Will Ask; He Will Give - October 19, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! So, what tales of love grown cold met you on your favorite news outlet this morning? Mine was the news that a firefighter had shot a cell-phone video of a girl's fatal accident and shared it around the station. Later, someone sent the video to the parents. It doesn't get much colder than that. The video was too graphic to show on the news show; which from what I have seen means that there is no way the parents should have to see such a thing. Where does something like this stop? How far will people go before we can say that is as bad as it can get? Actually, we know the answer to that - Jesus will first catch us up to Heaven, and then He will start the tribulation that ends this earth as we know it. When that will start no man knows, but from stories such as that one, I can't help but think that we will see Jesus at any moment.

On a morning like this, does our verse have any good news for us?

Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to; you would ask me, and I would give you living water." John 4:10

Well, yes, it certainly does. We have read and heard about this gift before in our Bible studies, but you know from this verse that this poor woman is going to have a hard time understanding Jesus at first. I find it loving that God would first show us a very educated and intelligent man in Nicodemus who fails to understand Jesus, and then in the next chapter shows us a very street-wise, or wise in the way of the world, and intelligent woman whose name we never get who also fails to understand Jesus at the first. Jesus said some things that just went right by folks at the time. And when we didn't believe in him, those sayings did the same to us. The Good News of God's gift to humankind was so startling, and so different from the Law, that people just couldn't get it right away.

Jesus could have completed his journey to the cross in Jerusalem before coming to meet this woman. The Pharisees were already plotting to kill him, the Romans were in place, and crucifixions had been used by the Romans for some time. Jesus could have gathered the 12 disciples, including the betrayer, and set off to finish his mission about 3 years earlier than he did. Except that so many people who would come to believe in Jesus, including the disciples, needed more time to hear him and understand the Good News. Even John the gospel writer admits later that much of what Jesus said they didn't get until Jesus rose again and the Holy Spirit came upon them. John didn't even write his gospel for about 60 years after Jesus had ascended to Heaven.

Some of those who hear the Good News will get it right away, but many of us, myself included, will not understand right away. Jesus tells the woman, "If only you knew..." He says much the same thing to those of us who take time to 'get it', but notice that even after she figures out who Jesus is, she will still have to ask. No one has salvation forced on them, but at the time we suddenly or gradually realize who is offering the living water of salvation, we will ask and Jesus will give.

Have a wonderful Tuesday in Christ!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Gleaning the Obvious - October 18, 2010

Good Monday morning! I'm back, you're back, and we are all ready to go this week. Sidney lost, Nebraska lost, the Broncos lost, and when we throw in Jeff's team, the Buccaneers lost too. We just had a bad weekend for our football teams. Nebraska's play looked like a video of football dropsy; footballs bounced all over the ground in that game. Texas got off to a great start and put 'er in cruise mode. Nebraska gave Texas a great start and then put 'er in 'oops' mode. We just couldn't win this weekend. So what better to do than to look in God's word for some refreshment for the week?

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?" John 4:9

What can we glean from this one verse? The racial differences between the Jews and Samaritans were apparently quite obvious to the eye. She knew immediately and apparently without doubt that Jesus was a Jew. The racial problems were deep as this verse also states that Jews refused to have anything to do with Samaritans. (Unless they were hungry it seems from our previous verses). We also can assume that Samaritans return the favor as she is surprised that Jesus is asking her to serve him a drink. I wonder if the disciples will even be able to buy food in the village? What will Jesus say to this woman?

Today, we would probably respond with, "I know my own race; what's your problem girl?" The unspoken idea is of course to try placing the blame for the problem entirely on the speaker. The verse states that the woman is surprised. Her question is one along the lines of: "Are you nuts?" The stating of the obvious is probably much like Nicodemus in her attempt to buy some time for her poor brain to catch up. Jesus seems to have been a very surprising man in his first century time. Jesus took a learned teacher of the Jewish law and surprised him; Jesus surprised the Samaritan woman; and the Pharisees already wanted to kill him for the words Jesus spoke in and near Jerusalem. Not many traveling preachers have started so quickly and startled so many as Jesus did. Who is this man who speaks such things and what will he say to this surprised woman?

What is Jesus saying to you today? Have you been surprised by anything you have read in the Word of God? We know that in another place, Jesus told the disciples to do good to those who hurt you and to pray for those who hate you. These also were surprising things to hear. Even today we do not often make up a list of people who hate us and place it beside our beds as a prayer list. But that is what Jesus said to do! The actual words of Jesus are even more surprising as I have it just a little off in my memory. "But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who have hurt you." (Luke 6:27-28) We are to do good to those who hate us, not just pray for them. And we are to pray for those who have done more than just hate us, but have moved on to hurting us. Wow! I don't think that I need to remind each of us that this will not come naturally. We are wired from Adam's fall to hate 'em back, and to repay those who hurt us in kind. Actually, I doubt that anyone has ever taken revenge in exact measure. We hear kids tell each other that is "payback" or "Now we're even!", but so often vengeance is much more than the original hurt, and the feud starts, or much less than the original hurt and the vengeance seeker is unsatisfied. We seem to have no way of getting it right without Jesus in our hearts.

Praise God for the new week! Look to His Holy Spirit for love and inspiration as we go forth in Christ!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Stopped by the Well - October 15, 2010

Good Friday morning! Oh boy, do we ever need the love of Jesus in these dark days. More tales of woe last night from a place that just doesn't have to be that way. What a disappointment! On the other hand, we did have a wonderful meeting with some good popcorn, bread, and pizza. There may have been a lesson involved too, but we did spend some time celebrating the rescue down south in Chile. We like to see such efforts for the glory of God the Father. I'm glad that the endurance of those men was a chance for them to seek God and give Him the glory. I pray that seed is not some that fell into the shallow soil. No doubt one of the things spoken of during their 69 days in the hole was: What are you going to do when you get out?

Jesus had made it out of Jerusalem, where officials already sought to end his life, and was stopped by a well in Samaria. I mean stopped beside a well, not that the well was an obstacle to his progress.

He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. John 4:8

Ha, ha, okay, trust men to set aside any prejudices or fears of those despised Samaritans to go buy some food. The Sychar 1st Century BK was open and the men wanted to eat. Stomachs don't know the race of the cook it seems. Jesus may have been too tired to accompany the disciples and stayed at the well to get a drink and speak with this woman. The disciples had sustenance on the mind and walked straight into a village they would normally have avoided to satisfy the immediate need of their hunger. Jesus may have other things in mind; for all we know, he was perfectly capable of walking into town with the disciples. Jesus may have wanted the disciples to learn that the Gentiles, those despised Samaritans, were not so different from the urban folks back in Jerusalem. Jesus may have wanted to meet with this woman for some reason. Of course, we know well the story of the woman at the well from our Bible school days. Jesus is in fact going to have quite the conversation with this Samaritan woman while his disciples hit the local fast food joint.

Fears of going to a new or strange place can be overcome, sometimes by a more immediate need such as the hunger driving the disciples into town to buy some food. Other times, we may have to put our faith in Jesus and walk boldly into a place we have never gone before. If that sounds a bit vaguely familiar, you can blame the old Trekker in me. Last night we spoke on obstacles. All of us will find them in this life, often the obstacles have a way of finding us. The more you follow Jesus, the more strength and power you will have to overcome those obstacles in Christ.

Looking forward to a great day, and a wonderful weekend to follow!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Sight Offense - October 14, 2010

Good Thursday morning! We have much to celebrate this morning with an especial gratitude for the rescue of the trapped miners in Chile. All of them are now up on the surface and recovering from their ordeal; praise God for His mercy! Try not to think too hard about what it would be like deep underground for more than two months. I don't think that I could stand to be locked in my basement for two months, and it has windows!

Today, Jesus has arrived at the well near Sychar, worn out from his long walk.

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Please give me a drink." John 4:7

As we covered yesterday, this just doesn't seem like a big deal to us. However, it wasn't but 50 years ago that separated, they were called segregated, drinking fountains and bathrooms existed in many parts of the nation. No doubt there were many children raised in both Samaria and Israel that had to learn about the racial hatred that existed at the time Jesus arrived at that well. We will go on about this while Jesus visits with the woman at the well, as we have come to know the story. Today's verse doesn't give a hint that anything is wrong. Actually, many folks today would take up the issue of Jesus getting his own drink before they would realize that a racial issue existed. We seem to have a different axe to grind these days, but conflict is still right where we left it; in the old sinful nature we inherited from Adam. Seeking the kingdom of God has always been the more difficult road; seeking conflict or a good old fashioned argument in this world is all too easy. I'm writing about conflict and the verse gives no indication of any conflict to come!

Jesus does nothing but sit down to rest his weary bones and utter a polite request for a drink. Of course, that's how many conflicts begin. We are often told that it takes two to start a fight, but that isn't always true. In life, a person can choose to take offense simply over our mere presence, or race, or how we are dressed, or many other things. Not a few men have wandered into a tavern and found themselves giving offense through nothing but their look, manner of speaking, or polite request. Jesus warns us that our presence will often offend the world; His name will offend the world, and His light shining through all Christians will offend the world. We cannot help but offend in some cases. Will the woman at the well be offended by Jesus? After all, the Jews, especially the leaders, have already been offended by the words and actions of Jesus. Surely this woman of the despised Samaritans will be offended just by the sight of him! We'll read on tomorrow.

Have a wonderful Thursday! Only about six weeks until Thanksgiving! Now was that really necessary? The year seems short enough as it is.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Tough Journey - October 13, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! How can I write of anything other than the rescue of the Chilean miners way down south from us? Our weather just seems so unimportant when you think of coming up into the world after spending 69 days trapped in a mine shaft. The ride to the surface is apparently a bit like the express capsule from hell, but I'll bet the men are glad to get in it. Perhaps even more glad to get out of it. Sometimes the way out of the valley of death's shadow can seem like too much for us to bear, but we need to keep our eyes on the Savior and look to the destination.

News reports mention that some miners have been caught with a bit of a problem, both wives and lovers showed up at the rescue site. Jesus did warn us that hidden things will be revealed near the end. Adultery is not something you want hanging over your head when arriving at the end; let's clean up our own house in the power of the Spirit right now.

Today, the start of an interesting meeting in John.

Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. John 4:6

In case you ever wondered about Jesus' humanity, this verse will help to remind us that our Lord did grow weary and worn out from long walks. We will come to find out in the next few verses that Jesus also had an appointment at this particular well. Jesus may have worn himself out walking quickly to arrive at just the right time. We know that Jesus was never late, but that doesn't mean that he didn't have to put in some serious effort to make all of his assigned meetings on time. God may have set an aggressive schedule for His Son at times. Then again, the walk may have simply been long as the Bible says. My experience in the corporate world may have me adding in a spin that doesn't belong there. What we do know is that Jesus neither feared the despised Samaritans nor the long walk it took to arrive at Sychar around noontime. What we can learn from this is that we are neither to fear those we have heard bad things spoken about, or the effort we may need to put in to arrive where God would have us to be. We may just get tired on this journey God is leading us on!

Praise God for the journey! Some good news for you: I met with the attorney yesterday to begin the process of starting my new business officially. I'll tell you the name when it's all official. Speaking of a tough journey though, the startup of a business seems to involve a whole lot of those expense kind of things such as: additional insurance, legal fees, state fees, a CPA, whatever that may be :-) , and a whole host of meetings. You'd think I was trying to start some big corporation or something.

Have a wonderful new day!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Joseph did you say? - October 12, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! The holiday is over and we are back for more devotionaling... devotionaling? I think my old language arts teacher just cringed, or rolled over in her grave, not sure if Mrs. Lancaster is still around or not. Have you ever thought that the old teacher from your youth must surely be dead by now, only to find that the teacher wasn't that much older than you? Somehow we often find that the "ancient of days" from back then didn't have quite so many years on us as we might have thought. What is all this depressing talk of old age anyway?

Today, after we learned Saturday that Jesus had to go through Samaria on his way back to Galilee, we learn that Jesus is still on the road.

Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. John 4:5

We read along just fine, but then something occurs... Joseph? Did the Bible really say the field was given to Joseph? Would that have been before Joseph was sold into slavery or after? It must have been before because as I recall Joseph never came back to Israel until the folks following Moses hoisted his old bones onto a camel and took off for the desert some 400 years later. Ah, but the Bible scholars will know that I am wrong in this. Joseph did in fact receive permission from Pharaoh to return to Canaan and bury Jacob his father at the end of Genesis. Joseph took quite the entourage with him too! Although the field may have been given while Joseph was a youth, the jealousy of his brothers prevented him from building his cabin by the lake, or well in this case, and living a life of quiet farming and genial retirement. We know that Joseph didn't stay in what would become Israel in either his youth or after burying his father. Pharaoh, his boss, had given Joseph the instruction to return as soon as possible. At this time Pharaoh very much valued Joseph's service and couldn't stand to have him gone for long. Joseph retired as the number 2 man in Egypt and it took many years for Egypt's leaders to forget the great thing Joseph had done for their nation.

But if this is the same Jacob and Joseph that we are familiar with from scripture, this verse does show that Jacob had given Joseph much more than just a fancy coat. A field would have been just as valuable then as it is to us now. Notice how the mark of Jacob's favor is remembered for centuries after the fact though? If Jacob had given this field to Joseph, why wasn't this land part of Israel? It was, but in the centuries since Joseph had lived in Egypt, the field had been lost when the Israelites picked up and went to Egypt to survive the famine, regained when Joshua conquered Canaan once more about 400 years of so later, and then lost once more when the northern kingdom of Israel was overrun and scattered among the nations. Now, as Jesus walks through the half-breed land of Samaria, the field belongs to... Rome! All of the land once ruled by Israel and Judah had become Roman territory, but the local people still remembered their divisions from the days just after Solomon's life. Both kingdoms, Israel and Judah, had fallen to the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively, and both lands had fallen to the Roman invasions, but they still liked to entertain the old hatreds.

Jesus has arrived at a village in the land of the despised Samaritans. What will he do there? Jesus has already done what few of his Jewish mates would not by going into Samaria in the first place. Something interesting is surely going to happen there. Not fair; I'm reading ahead. Have a wonderful day in Christ!


Saturday, October 09, 2010

He Just HAD to Go There! - October 9, 2010

Good Saturday morning! From the weather forecast we might just have the start of autumn today; but there is no guarantee. I seem to recall that the Car Care project at the church was postponed by snow at this time last year. What a difference a year can make, eh? I pray that you have a wonderful and productive Saturday on this more autumn-like day.

What does John have for us today? Route information it would seem.

He had to go through Samaria on the way. John 4:4

There is a whole history behind this seemingly dull comment from John. From our town here in western Nebraska, we would have to go through Wyoming to get to Utah. No big deal, the road is wide and relatively straight with only a few really big hills on it. There is some very nice scenery around Laramie and Elk Mountain, and then this area past Rawlins where you kind stare in awe, wondering, "I hope no one ever got lost in this desert!" In any case, we hurtle through it in our cars or trucks and enjoy the journey. What if you hated the inhabitants enough to go around the entire state? That is what the Jews from Judea did with Samaria. With the automobiles of today, going around Wyoming would be roughly the same as the Jews of Jesus' time taking the longer journey on foot around Samaria. However, we simply don't understand the situation. While someone might drive down to I-70 for a change of scenery over driving I-80 through Wyoming, we cannot understand what the Judeans felt at that time.

According to my Bible study notes, Samaria was a region left to the barbarians in a manner of speaking. When the northern kingdom of Israel fell back in the B.C. days, the few pure blood Jews left had to intermarry with the Gentiles who were resettled in the area or have their families die out forever. The mixed blood race left behind is a part of what we know as the Palestinians today. The hatred between the races still causes problems in our day, so we can probably imagine a little of what was going on in Jesus' time. You might imagine also just a little bit of the old snarky in John's tone when he wrote this verse: "He just HAD to go through Samaria on the way!" Sort of like you or I might say of old Pastor Bob, "He just HAD to go through the venomous reptile cage on the way out of the zoo!' The disciples followed where Jesus led them, and going through Samaria may not have been their idea of a rockin' good time. Much like following Pastor Bob through the cage holding venomous snakes and lizards might not be our idea of a good time.

The disciples following Jesus may have been trying to step lightly for fear of becoming unclean in Samaria. John may have kept his journal standing up to avoid sitting on the rocks of Samaria. We don't know these things, but we do know from John's gospel that Jesus just had to walk through Samaria...

I wonder if there are any prejudices in my own life that may need to be rooted out? Have a great Saturday!


Friday, October 08, 2010

Sound the Retreat! - October 8, 2010

Good Friday morning! It's a trash day. That means we put our trash cans out on the street for collection, not that this is a day to be thrown away. The cat is calming down after the excitement of last night, although he is still a bit on the twitchy side; a bit like someone who had too much caffeine. I realized this morning that I had cleaned up the coffee pot and grounds from yesterday morning, had the filter ready to go and the coffee bag set out on the cupboard... and completely forgot to offer coffee to the guests last night. I guess I just don't associate warm evenings with coffee. We are still trying to figure out when autumn starts around here, but we may get a hint this weekend. Believe it or don't, but a drop of about 20° in the high temps between the last few days and this weekend is only a drop to our normal October temps.

In this morning's verse, Jesus sounds the retreat and quits the field of battle... or does he?

So [Jesus] left Judea and returned to Galilee. John 4:3

This verse begins with a "so", so we must go back to the verses from the past couple of days to see the reason why Jesus went back to Galilee. John 4:1 tells us that Jesus knew that the Pharisees had got wind of him and the disciples converting followers. As the self-appointed watch dogs of the Jewish religious activities, the Pharisees were concerned over any activity that might blaspheme their religion. They should have been watching for blasphemy against God, but Jesus has already shown us that they were more concerned with the appearance of religion. Blasphemy: to dishonor or revile God. I looked it up last night in my Bible concordance; probably something that was overdue for me to be doing. Of course, we are going to wonder why Jesus would retreat from the Pharisees like this. But is it a retreat?

We tend to think that to retreat is a disgrace, a sign of weakness, and in some ways it may be. But if you were to continue the attack, what might the cost be? We tend to have a wrongheaded view of a retreat, which even in military activities may be necessary to improve the position or regroup. In the case of our Lord though, he retreats to spare those who have not yet been saved. Think about it: nothing stands in the way of the Rapture, but if Jesus snatches us out of here today, the end time of the end times, the Great Tribulation will begin soon after. Many people who are unsaved now would suddenly be in mortal peril. Jesus is merciful in not charging in right now. Just as Jesus showed mercy to the Pharisees by backing off at the time we read about today. Jesus knew the Pharisees would be instrumental in his death in about three years, but if he pressed the issue right now in this verse, the timing of his death might have been thrown off. Of course we know that Jesus would never do anything that wasn't in God's perfect time. But we should not read any weakness into our Lord's retreat to Galilee.

Indeed we do not, for one of the great activities that the church engages in is the spiritual retreat, usually at a nice campground in the mountains or by the seashore. Even a gathering together for a prayer or Bible study is a kind of retreat from the world for a short time. We learn; we encourage and receive encouragement; and we show our love for God and each other in these small retreats.

Sometimes we even get to see a turncoat, literally, as we did last night when Ric changed from a K-State purple to Nebraska red shirt at halftime. I decided to ignore the neighborhood rumors of a half-naked man outside my house last night. Well, on to another exciting Friday!


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Thrown Under the Train (ain't gonna happen!) - October 7, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Do you feel bad when you have to exercise your authority in something? I don't mean in making a decision or holding a meeting, but in saying "no" when you know that the subordinate very much wants to do something. You might be wondering whom I could possibly have to worry about acting authoritatively over this morning, and I will tell you! The little cat wants very much to sit on my Bible this morning. To her, flat spot equals resting place for hindquarters. As a beast in a fallen world, she does not recognize a copy of the Word of God, and after a couple of more gentle "no's" I had to lift her bodily off the Bible and put her on the floor. Of course, my subordinate didn't appreciate this arrangement. I want to say "yes" all the time to those God has put me in charge of, even when I know that not everything is best for the cat. We are not going to like it when God says "No!" to us either. We want in much the same way as the beasts of the field. "I want it now!" we cry to God, but His view is much better than our own and He knows what is best for us.

Some mornings I will get up with a plan for the day in mind, but find out that I haven't actually asked God about that plan. In these cases, I find that He will often answer that question I should have asked with a "no". I don't read the "NO!" in big letters when I turn on my computer or anything like that, but as I read a Bible verse or devotional, hear a Bible lesson on MyBridge radio, or in some other way, I get the message that God doesn't want me to do what I have planned that day. Taking a lesson from the cat, I don't want to force God to step up from the gentle "no" to the more physical and obvious ways of saying "no", such as letting me do something that I will regret later.

Today's verse is just a little parenthetical note about Jesus, but an important one.

(though Jesus himself didn't baptize them - his disciples did.) John 4:2

Why is this note so important to John? Is it important to us? Every verse of the Bible is important to me, even the ones I don't yet understand. However, I think the Holy Spirit has given me some insight into this one today. Remember just a few verses back when John was introducing Jesus to the people gathered around him in chapter 1. He said this: "The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit." (John 1:33b) Had John the Baptist added, "...and with water." I'm sure that Jesus would have baptized with water along with his disciples. However, John the Baptist knew what to announce regarding the coming of the Son of God. Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit and he left the baptizing with water to his disciples. This situation reminds me of something that happens often in the world we live in.

I'll use my corporate experience as that will resonate with many of you. The situation is that you have been given a policy by your supervisor, department, company or whatever you are working under. A department chief from another department wants something that has been forbidden and so you tell him that you cannot provide that service. The department chief goes to your boss and the boss... throws you under the train. You feel like an ass, the department chief gets a superior smirk on his face, and you just know that not only will you be providing the forbidden service, but probably quite a few other previously forbidden things as well. The reasoning from your own boss usually takes the form of, "Well, we can make the exception this time for my new friend from the Analytics Department..." The point is that Jesus didn't do that to John the Baptist.

John had already spoken the words, and he knew that he would become less while Jesus became greater. What better opportunity for Jesus to make John a lot less than to correct him on the baptizing thing in front of everyone! We know already that Jesus wasn't like that. John the Baptist knew exactly what to say, and Jesus didn't throw him under the train so to speak. We have all known the boss who makes an exception to policy in order to gain some kind of favor in the business world; counting on the subordinates to say, "No" while undermining their efforts by saying, "Yes" whenever someone is willing to go directly to him or her with the request. As the subordinate, you get to feel less and less as this happens again and again. Jesus won't do that to you!

Has anything been added to the Bible, God's Word, since John wrote Revelation? Nope, and don't expect to see something come along that will change the Good News and make you look bad to those you have told. Jesus told us that if we believe in God's only Son we have eternal life (John 3:16); that isn't going to change, nor will exceptions be provided if someone talks directly to Jesus after we have told them about John 3:16. We want them to talk directly to Jesus, just as John the Baptist wanted people to go directly to the source, and Peter wanted his listeners to go directly to Jesus, and Paul encouraged his readers to go... you get the picture. All those who truly believe in Jesus want everyone to go directly to Jesus. And we all know that Jesus will not make us look bad or "throw us under the train" to make himself look greater. We know that Jesus doesn't need to be greater than he is already.

Have a great, and obedient, day in Christ!


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

What the Pharisees Heard - October 6, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Nice morning, I wonder when autumn starts around these parts? Is it even possible for a season to be late? Praise the Lord for the new day! Whatever comes today we will praise the Lord. No football games to worry about today, but there is one tomorrow... We will have some food and something to drink, and gather together to sort of watch the Nebraska-K State game. I use "sort of" to indicate that there will probably be a fair amount of conversation going on at the same time.

In studying today's verse we must be careful not to read too much into it. We have run into temple officials and religious leaders before, but who are these Pharisees?

Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John. John 4:1

Why did John the writer note that the Pharisees had learned about Jesus baptizing more people than John the Baptist? In Matthew we can find out more about the Pharisees. Jesus mentions them in the Sermon on the Mount in 5:20 when he compares their way of keeping the law externally with His way that involves a perfect inward and outward compliance. In Matthew 22:15 we find the Pharisees plotting with the Herodians, a group they were normally in opposition to. In Matt 23:13 Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees, who had plotted to trap him with words from Scripture by showing how little they understood the Scriptures. In many verses of Matthew and Luke, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for their emphasis on the outward appearance and religious ceremony while ignoring the attitudes of the heart. What the Pharisees heard is that a change had arrived and people were flocking to hear this good news.

In Luke we read how Jesus amazed the temple scholars from the young age of 12. The Pharisees and Sadducees would be threatened by the coming of one who taught with authority. In John's gospel, this verse is the start of the problems Jesus would have with the Pharisees. Some possible outcomes from today's verse are that:

The Pharisees will be envious of the seeming success of Jesus in the eyes of the world. Even though Jesus was baptizing more people than John the Baptist, John has already lamented to us how few people truly believe in Jesus.

The Pharisees would give God the glory for sending the Messiah. I know; but that is a possible outcome if we just read today's verse.

The Pharisees might plot to discredit the ministry of Jesus.

The Pharisees could believe in Jesus as the Messiah and come be baptized themselves.

The Pharisees could gather with their own followers and lead them to the Messiah as John the Baptist did.

The Pharisees had the opportunity of a lifetime right before them. Messiah had arrived, John the Baptist had said it, and Jesus had acknowledged it himself by telling Nicodemus that the Son of Man had come down from Heaven. Only Messiah could do that. Would the Pharisees acknowledge Jesus, and put aside their ceremonies and lists of rules to follow the Good News? Or would the Pharisees cling to their religion and seek to condemn the Messiah they claimed to be watching and waiting for?

Have a great new day in Christ!


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Great Third - October 5, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Not as cool this morning as we have seen and the predicted high temp is more like August than October. Our fall rains have not yet arrived, the sprinklers are still running all over town, and the wind blows from the south... exactly what time of the year is it again? As with the past couple of years, our autumn seems late and the normal temps bear this out. So, as I babble on about a condition of our circumstance, what is really important in this world? Right, God's word. Today, we have finished the great third chapter of John. A review of what went on in this past chapter might be good for me and you.

In the third chapter of John's gospel, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. You will recall how Nicodemus started off the conversation as he might have with a visiting professor from the College of Religious Studies. Jesus didn't acknowledge the compliments, but got right to what Nicodemus was seeking. The great teacher of religious law was set back a step by what Jesus had to tell him. We learned through the discomfiture of Nicodemus that we must be born again to have eternal life. Not born again as in the first birth from our mother, but born of the Spirit. While our systems of religion will tell us that we must qualify for heaven through some effort or practice, Jesus gave Nicodemus and all those who read his words the real lowdown on getting to heaven: You must start your life all over again. As Nicodemus sputtered and stalled for time, Jesus explained further the central mission of his coming to earth. We can't explain the process of being born again by the Spirit, but we learned that is the second birth that must take place.
Jesus further went on to explain why God did this: He loved the world so much that He sent His one and only Son. Jesus spells it out in plain text for us: Believe in Him and be saved for all eternity; fail or choose not to believe in Jesus and face God's judgment. Jesus came down from heaven to give us this message and this chance for redemption. Jesus also tells us that he came not to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved. Also very important for us to remember since the world will often complain about how Jesus came to make everyone feel guilty. Jesus says it first and then later in the chapter John the Baptist explains it further.

John the Baptist takes a position of humility in the latter half of John 3 as he explains to his disciples that he must become less and Jesus becomes greater. John used the metaphor of the bridegroom and best man to explain that he would be leaving the center of attention as Jesus had arrived to begin the wedding. John would rejoice at the success of Jesus, but he was also a bit saddened at how few people would believe in the Son of God at this time. Again John tells us that Jesus has come down from Heaven with the Good News. Two witnesses to the light of eternal life: Jesus and then John the Baptist. Both witnesses tell us and those gathered with them that we must believe in the Son to have eternal life. The Good News is that both tell us this belief in Jesus is all that we need for eternal life. No long road march with little to eat or drink, no lifetime of religious observances, and most important of all: no absolute, every day, keeping of the Law, which we already know that we cannot keep in any case.

The Good News has arrived in the person of Jesus. John the gospel writer and disciple of Jesus introduces this Good News to the world. The deity of Jesus is told both by Jesus himself and by John the Baptist. Nicodemus takes the lead and learns what we need to know to have eternal life. Nicodemus represented the sinful and law-burdened world for a moment so that Jesus could give all of us the Good News. We know that Good News as John 3:16: "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." That's some good news in a dark world!

Have a great and wonderful day in Christ!


Monday, October 04, 2010

Dead Set Against You - October 4, 2010

Good Monday morning! Stiff and sore this morning, and the weather looks like it agrees with me right now. Fog and clouds started rolling in during my walk. It's starting to look kind of gray out there. Denver won, Nebraska goofed off, Kimball and Sidney both got stomped by superior teams, and we have a new week beginning in the fog. What a way to start the week. Praise God for the new day in October, even though you might be wondering when our October weather is supposed to actually start this year.

Today, we have made it to the final verse in John chapter 3, and how fitting that John the Baptist sums it up for us one more time.

And everyone who believes in God's Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn't obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God's angry judgment. John 3:36

In case we missed it in John 3:15, 16, 17, and 18, we get one more reminder from the witness, John the Baptist. Everyone who believes in Jesus has, not will have or might have, but has eternal life. Good news! We believe in Jesus and we have eternal life. Both Jesus and John the Baptist have affirmed this to us. But there is more, news that isn't quite so good. If anyone fails to obey the Son, he or she faces God's angry judgment. There is no eternal life or nothing - as some might use this verse to make their excuse. God's angry judgment is something I would rather not face at the end of a difficult life. How much better it is to get up in the morning and realize that Jesus has paid the price for me! God's angry judgment is set aside, all charges are dropped for lack of evidence as God has put my sins away from Him as far as the east is from the west! On the other hand, those who refuse to obey the Son will have sin after sin brought up from their life at the judgment seat.

Most of us can remember sin after sin from our lives, but in the judgment not one will be missed. Try to imagine having all of that brought up against you? Even the good works might be shown to have been done out of self-interest on in the hope of a reward. You might come to the end and face judgment, to paraphrase Dickens, with every mark dead set against you! Believe in Jesus, be born again of the Spirit. Why face a judgment that we don't have to face?

Have a great new week in Christ!


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Who's in Charge Here? - October 2, 2010

Yoohoo! Still here on this Saturday morning! If I sound a little silly this morning, it's because I am. What's your point? My copy of the MacArthur Study Bible arrived yesterday in the English Standard Version. Of course, I had to check John 3:16 right away to make sure the words were still there, and they were. The ESV is a newer translation that is also more like the King James Version. Worth a try for those of you who like to collect Bible versions, like someone we know. I won't mention his name, but I can see at least four different Bible versions from where I sit. Woops, make that 5, correction 6, maybe I had better stop gawking around and just write the devotional.

It's October, does that mean we can talk about Christmas music yet? John MacArthur is going to talk about the true meaning of Christmas on MyBridge during November; I heard that last night. I think that means we can talk about Christmas music! Three new Christmas CD's arrived this week too. You can come listen with me if you like! Speaking of Christmas of course leads us to Christ. Is he just a part of Christmas or much more? John the Baptist will answer that one today.

The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. John 3:35

Much more? According to John, Jesus is in charge of everything! Jesus saved you and me from our sins through his sacrifice on the cross; so I can't think of anyone better to be in charge. In the world, we often wonder aloud: "Who put that lunkhead in charge?" You may not use 'lunkhead', but I'll bet at some point in your life you have voiced a similar question. We are surrounded by imperfect leaders, and have probably even filled that bill ourselves at times. I know that at times I have been in charge of a small crew, a few Marines, or other groups, and never have I been the perfect leader. No doubt, someone at some point asked, "Who put that lunkhead in charge?" The one leader who is perfect and showed the perfect example, also is known by who put him in charge, God the Father. I like knowing that God put everything into the hands of the Son. When did that start?

Back in the day, I rebelled against most every form of authority. I am not unique in this, most every generation goes through the rebellious phase. We feel this from the sinful nature we gained through Adam's rebellion against God. At some point in our lives, after salvation and during our growth from Christian infant to Christian adult, we began to look at verses like this one and say, "Praise God!" Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful changes you have worked in us through your Holy Spirit!


Aha! One of my 'versions' is a study Bible copy of the NKJV, and the ESV box is empty (I was reading it last night.) so only four versions are here in front of me. It's always fun to be right the first time and then screw it up with too much thinking on my part!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Spirit Without Limit - October 1, 2010

Good Friday morning! Lots of folks out early and working today, must be some sort of event going on later. Yes, it's time for Oktoberfest here in Sidney, or Octoberfest if you prefer. The big tent is up and the calendars are ready to change to the new month as this year the big festival starts on the first day of October. Sorry, the year is 3/4's gone already. We are in the last quarter of 2010... does that really matter? Not so much as the realization that we are also in the last quarter, so to speak, before the return of Jesus. Time is short, but we shouldn't get in a rush. Jesus often used agriculture as an example in his parables. We should be steadfast and hard-working, but not in a rush. Tilling fields, planting, harvesting, all activities that require time and effort, but also activities that cannot be rushed. Notice that all of these activities also depend on God. No rain, and there will be no harvest. Too much rain and the planting cannot be done or the crop fails. Did you ever stop to think that when Adam had dominion over the earth that he could water his plants just the right amount at all times? No part of the Garden of Eden suffered drought or flooding. After Adam gave up his dominion, we have ever since been looking for just the right amount of rain at just the right times. As we all know, too much rain or too little rain seems to be the norm.

John the Baptist continues explaining about Jesus today.

For he is sent by God. He speaks God's words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. John 1:34

First of all, you and I may not be able to handle the Spirit without limit in order to anticipate the first question. Actually, I didn't so much anticipate it as wonder what it would be like to have the Spirit without limit. What if you and I always said just the right thing at the right time as Jesus did? What if we resisted all temptation and never sinned? What if we spoke God's words instead of those words back in 1992 that we cannot forget. (The year is random and is not referring to some event of mine that would excite your curiosity... just drop it!) How do we know that the Spirit is limited in us? We don't, but if God limits the Spirit given to me so that I am not overwhelmed, I can understand that. We do have our limitations; Jesus was not limited in the Spirit. Praise God that Jesus was sent and spoke God's words. Praise God that Jesus lived in the Spirit without limit. Praise God that Jesus loves you and me!

Now, for all those traveling this weekend; we pray for your safety and safe return home. For all those festing this weekend; we pray for moderation. And for all of us; we pray for the Spirit of God to come upon you with healing of mind, soul, and body! Praise the name of Jesus!