Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Life and Death

Read John 5

And so, this parallel track of people seeking and following Jesus is contrasted with those vested in the religious hierarchy who are seeking to discredit him, and whom later will set upon a course to kill him.

For the moment, they have him dead-to- rights.  If you don’t like the idiom, then go with they caught him in the act.  Now they would expect some contrition and Jesus should be asking them for mercy.

Oops!  It didn’t go down that way. 

Jesus noted that his Father in heaven was always at work and so was he.  In that statement was the dichotomy that would eventually take Jesus to the cross.  What dichotomy?

It was simple.  Jesus was the Son of God or he was not.  It was that simple.  Jesus had told the woman at the well in Sychar that he was the Christ.  Many people there recognized him as the Savior of the world. Now he tells the Jews the same thing.

Let’s think on that for a moment.  The Jews had been hoping and praying for a Savior to come.  Would they not at least consider the words of this man who said God is his Father.

They had been looking for the Messiah, even the Samaritans had been looking for the Messiah, and now he is standing in front of those who felt they had held to God’s teachings the most and they don’t even take the time to pray or meditate upon what he just told them.

Could this be the Messiah?  Could it?  Let’s follow up on this.

Jesus went a different route than some might expect.  He could have said that you guys have added way more to the law than my Father put forth.  Some of your rules are a real stretch and deserved to be called out for what they are.

But that’s not how it went down.  Jesus said that his Father was always working and thus so was he.  The Father who modeled work 6 and rest 1 was at it 24/7.  What gives?

Could this man be the Lord of the Sabbath?

Instead of listening to Jesus, the Jews now sought to get rid of him even more.  What else could they do?  He violated the Sabbath and then justified it by claiming that God was his Father.

To reflect upon any of this might have been a stumbling block to killing him, which would come later.

Jesus came back at the self-righteous, noting that he really does nothing that is not ordained by the Father in heaven. 

He could have left it there but began a course of dialogue that he would expand upon in his last hours spent with his disciples.  Jesus is in the Father.  The Father is in him.  The Father has entrusted the judgment of his creation to his Son.

Fortunately, Jesus had come to save and not to condemn.  That salvation would come through belief in the Son and forgiveness through the shedding of his blood. 

Jesus told them that if they didn’t believe in him, then they didn’t believe in the Father.  That had to get their goat.  They couldn’t pick and choose.

Jesus told them that when they believed in him, they passed from death to life.  Did that mean that they were already dead?  The dead are in the ground, right?

Jesus spoke to all.  Those who hear him and believe will live.

Jesus went on to talk about those who were already dead and in the ground.  One day, they will hear him say arise and the dead will come out of their graves.  Keep that one in the back of your mind for when we get to chapter 11 and Jesus specifically called for Lazarus to arise.

Up to this point it’s been mostly water to wine, miraculous healings, truth to all, and a selected outburst at those who turned his Father’s house into a market.  Now it was Game On!

Jesus was bringing truth and salvation.  Many Jews were plotting to kill him.  His journey to the cross had been set.

As we continue our journey through John, we will see more conflict between the religious Jews and Jesus.  We will also see some more accounts of miracles, this time with more and more witnesses. 

It’s good study material, but is there a message of action for us today?

Yes!  It’s life and death.  Those who do not believe upon the Son of God are lost.  They are dead already. 

But in a moment of professing belief in him, they pass from death to life.  We are messengers of life.  We go into a dead world.  We share a message of life.

If you ever have a bad day or are bored or just in a funk, remember that you are on a mission of life and death.  You have life in the Christ, but what about others that you know?

Would you leave them behind to die?  They are dead right now without Christ.  The world will make fun of you and harass you for saying this.  They don’t want to hear about one way to come into right standing with God.   You know it to be true, so why would the opinions of the unbelieving world matter to you?

Would you share the good news that they can live if they will accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ?  If you believe and profess that he is the Son of God, then you know him to be Lord.

Make a list of friends and acquaintances.  Now circle those that you would leave for dead.  You can’t decide for them but you can invite them to know the Lord and pray for them every day, or you can leave them for dead.

It’s about life and death and let’s pray that many more choose life.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Waiting to Bathe at Bethesda

Read John 5

We have arrived at chapter 5.  It’s been a circuitous route in some regards.  We Jumped ahead to sing Hosanna and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ a little bit more than we do most Sundays.

John started his account in the beginning and moved quickly to how the Creator and Savior of the world went unrecognized by that same world.

John then has his brief Christmas story.   And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John the apostle wrote how John the Baptist explained that he was neither Elijah nor the Christ, but that the Christ was coming.  When that day came, we remember the words:  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus began calling disciples and then performed his first miracle in Cana of Galilee and went from mobilization to ministry in that instant.

Jesus moved on to Jerusalem and was not pleased how his Father’s house had been treated.  While Jesus was in Jerusalem, a Pharisee came to see Jesus at night.  We benefit by this discourse on entering into and living in the Kingdom of God.

In the course of their discussion, we also received the gospel in miniature.  Next we see John noting how he must become less and the ministry of the Christ continue to grow. 

Jesus would return to Galilee and was compelled to go through Samaria instead of around it. He had an interesting one-on-one encounter with a woman who came to Jacob’s well about noon.  From this we see for the first time the words or references to living water and the first-person profession by Jesus that he was the Christ.  The woman was changed and so were many other lives.

Jesus had news for his disciples too.  His sustenance was to do what his Father sent him to do and finish the work he was given. 

Jesus made it back to Galilee where we read of his second miracle and the faith of a man who took Jesus at his word.

This brings us to chapter 5.  Jesus came back to Jerusalem.  We are not told if he checked to see if the money changers learned their lesson or not.  We find Jesus near the Sheep Gate and a pool named Bethesda.

This isn’t just a farm pond near one of the city gates.  It is surrounded by five colonnades.  Imagine a pool with five covered walkways around it.  The text said that is was surrounded, so maybe these covered colonnades make a pentagon.  Perhaps the walkways were curved to resemble a circle.

Why is any of this important?  Someone went to a lot of trouble to dress this place up.

Why?  When the water stirred at this pool, the first to get in might get healed.  You can imagine that many with infirmities gathered here.

One such man had been an invalid for 38 years.  He was probably paralyzed and was brought here daily to rest on his mat hoping for his chance.

Jesus saw him and learned of his long-standing infirmity, and asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

You might think that his answer would have been “Yes!  Absolutely!”  Instead the man revealed his hopelessness.

When the water stirs, there is nobody to help me get to the water.  Somebody always gets there first.  In one regard we see some hope in the man.  Evidently, he is here day after day.  Evidently, he sits there hopelessly day after day.

Jesus cuts to the quick.  “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.”

He did.  He was cured.  After 38 years, he was cured.  So, he walked away with his mat in hand.  Imagine how great that must have felt, then he got flagged by the Pharisees or some of the other religious leaders.

It was the Sabbath and he was walking with his mat.  That’s 15 yards and loss of down right there.

But the newly healed man was having done of this.  He said the man that healed me told me to pick up my mat and hit the road.  That’s what I did.

The leaders wanted to know who this man was.  The man walking with his mat on the Sabbath didn’t catch his name, but he was surely doing what he was told.  That was a sore spot for the religious leaders.

Later on, the man saw Jesus at the temple.  Jesus told him that now that he was well, to stop sinning.  You don’t want to give up this miraculous gift by living a life of sin. 

What did the man do?  He went and told the religious leaders that the man who healed him was Jesus.  From this point forward, we see parallel tracks of Jesus and his teaching and miracles side by side with a religious hierarchy that began to plan on getting rid of Jesus.

If they can do this by discrediting him, so much the better; but the divine plan that would cause Jesus to shed his blood for our sins would rely upon the human nature of those who wanted to be rid of Jesus.  We will see that come to a head in about 6 chapters.

Here are some points to think on. 

Do we ever just go though the motions, saying our prayers, making our tithe, singing the songs on the bulletin?

What would we do if having prayed for our cancer to be gone, we heard the voice of Jesus asking if we wanted to be healed?  I hope that we would all cry out, “Yes!  Absolutely!”

Of course, we would, wouldn’t we?  Unless we had grown so accustomed to asking and not believing we will get an answer. 

Let us never become complacent in our petitions to God.  Let’s ask and believe. Ask and do not doubt.

We do not see Jesus requiring a sign of faith from this man, at least not at first.  The man who came from Capernaum had some strong faith, but his man at the pool seems to be singing:  Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me.

But he is there at the pool nonetheless. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of hope or at least we don’t see it, but he is there.  He still came to that pool day after day and year after year. 

How easy would it have been to have just stayed home and crawled up in a corner until he died and was no longer a burden to his family?  Yet after 38 years of infirmity, Jesus found him at the pool.

And when the Lord gives us instruction, let us be obedient.  Let’s do what he tells us to do, even if it gets some important people upset.

The Lord has commanded it.  I’m doing it. I’m not throwing penalty flags at those who are not.  My focus right now is doing what the Lord told me to do.

Realize that one day soon, the Lord will reveal to us that we are to open our doors and welcome all to come worship together again.

Some will be critical.  Some will cast hateful words our way.  Some will call us careless and heartless for not hiding in our homes for another 3 years.  Some will say we waited too long.

In the meantime, we keep doing what we know to do.

When the Lord directs, we will obey with what he directs.

I have talked before about each of you using a sound mind as you decide when and where to resume certain activities. 

But when the Lord calls you to stand up, pick up your mat and walk, and do what you were made to do, do not hesitate.  Do not let others or fear interfere with what the Lord is leading you to do and the sound mind that you use to accomplish his purpose.

When the Lord asks: Do you want to be healed? always be ready to answer in the affirmative and be ready to go forth doing his will.


John 2 - Part 1

Read John 2

John’s gospel doesn’t take us from the Jordan to 40 days in the wilderness.  Instead, Jesus and his disciples are in Cana for a wedding.  His mother is also there.  Then the unthinkable happens.  The host runs out of wine.

The people have surely been drinking freely, that is they probably already had more than they would at a meal in their own household, but hey, it’s a wedding.  Except for the fact that the wine is about to stop flowing.

The bride and groom are probably not worried about the wine.  Their day has come and wine is probably the least of their thoughts and concerns.  In fact, the groom probably remembers the story of Jacob and wants to make sure that he doesn’t drink too much.  But for the guests, it’s a big deal.

So, Mary comes to her son who also happens to be the Son of God, but most don’t know that part yet.  She explains the situation, but Jesus replies, what’s that got to do with me?

Jesus was not the family logistics specialist.  He was on a mission and performing a miracle did not seem to be on his Plan of the Day.  He noted that his hour has not yet come.

His mother does not argue with him.  He is a grown man and that would not be appropriate even if he were not the Son of God.  She simply tells the servants to do what he says.

Moms, you’ve got to love ‘em. 

Jesus commanded the servants to fill six very large stone jars used for water.  We think that they would collectively hold 120-180 gallons of water. 

After they had done this, Jesus told them to draw out a little of the water and take it to the master of the banquet, who we can only speculate was a little stressed at the moment.  They did.

The master of the banquet was amazed.  He noted that most people bring out the good wine followed by the cheap stuff.  It makes sense.  After a few glasses, folks are not apt to notice that the quality has gone down a little.

But here the wine presented is the best of the day.  Jesus turned water into wine and it was the best ever.

I have told people that I know if they ever find a bottle of wine that can be authenticated from Cana, AD thirty-something to buy it.  I’m good for it.

This was not so much about wine as it was about Jesus doing more than any person could do.  He had begun his ministry calling disciples and now they knew they were following no ordinary Rabbi.  At least one had already professed him to be the Son of God.

It did not seem that Jesus wanted to reveal this much about himself at this time, but surely, his schedule had been accelerated.  With this miracle, his ministry jumped into full gear.  There was no mobilization or ramp-up period. 

It was Game On!

The ministry of our Savior and our Lord had begun.  Mobilization to ministry had been very quick.


Friday, April 24, 2020

Trust in the Lord

Read John 4

We continue our journey through John’s gospel. Earlier this week, we looked at an encounter between Jesus and a woman who met him at a well in Sychar, Samaria.

In the course of this interesting discussion between the One who brought living water and a very cagey woman who tried to change the focus of the discussion from herself to religious topics, thinking that would allow her to discontinue examination of her life, we get a message for her time and ours.

True worship has less to do with geography and more to do with being genuine.  God wants those who worship in spirit and truth.

As we consider our present geography, celebrate the fact that you can worship just as much where you are right now as when you were sitting in one of these pews.

Also of note, this is the first place that we see Jesus professing himself as the Christ. 

 Jesus went from living water to food that his disciples didn’t know about.  His food was to do his Father’s will and finish the mission that he had been given.

My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

Think about the second part of that statement.  We often pray Thy will be done, but how often do we ask for strength to see this through?

Paul would put it this way.  Let me let go of what is behind me and press on towards the goal.  That was after he discounted his previous religious standing—and he had great religious credentials—and desired to just do the work of his Lord.

Not only today do we say, Thy will be done, but tomorrow and the next day and the next.  How long must we do this?  Until we hear the words, Well done good and faithful servant.  We too must finish the work that we have been given by our Lord.

The fourth chapter continues with the woman who encountered Jesus testifying as to that encounter.  Some believed upon her testimony. Many went to see Jesus and then believed.  She left behind her water jar and aversion to meeting with the “righteous” people and boldly shared her encounter with the Lord.

The people of Sychar invited Jesus to stay with them and he did for two days.  Many more believed and some revealed their very human nature even after recognizing the Savior of the world.

They told the woman that they might have believed her at first but now they believe because they met Jesus themselves.

When I tell this story to my grandchildren, I want to say that the Savior of the world came to Sychar, I met him, and I believed.  I’m going to leave out the part about how the testimony of some floozy first led me to believe.

What I ask you to remember is how an encounter with Jesus changed this woman who came to the well in Sychar, probably coming at noon to avoid the shame of being with the other women, and she boldly proclaimed the One whom she met at the well.  This could be the Christ!

Now it’s on to Galilee.  Jesus headed back to where he turned water into wine.  Few witnessed this but surely the news had spread.  Some had been to Jerusalem and knew of what he did during the Passover Feast.  You might say that there was a buzz about him coming back.

Jesus advised his disciples that the saying that a prophet has no honor in his own country was a valid one, but for now, he was welcomed.

A man had come from Capernaum, a city where perhaps Jesus even had a house, and asked Jesus to heal his son. 

Jesus was a little terse at first.  He admonished the people that they sought miracles more that belief.  It was if they just wanted the broken stuff in their lives repaired without mending the brokenness of their lives.

Jesus did not deny the man’s request to heal his son, but he found the trip to Capernaum unnecessary. He simply said:  Your son will live.

The man took Jesus at his word and headed home.  There is a lesson in faith in his actions, but what came next defined the miracle.

While he headed home, he met some of his servants.  They 
told him that his son would live.  He asked them when he got better and it was the exact time that Jesus had told him his son would live.  The man who accepted Jesus at his word believed in Jesus as did his household.

There are similar accounts in other gospels, but this one comes from John.

This is the second miracle that we see in John’s gospel.  It was not performed before many but many would hear of it.  Only a few servants would know that Jesus had turned water into wine but many would hear of it.

Many in Samaria came to believe, but it’s Samaria.  What self-respecting Jew would listen to accounts from Samaria?

Jesus would soon head back to Jerusalem and perform more miracles.  He was gathering a following.  In just a couple chapters, Jesus would begin the first of his I Am statements in this gospel.  Jesus would heal a paralytic and feed a multitude, but he would also lose followers because his teachings were difficult.

Peter said that Paul was sometimes hard to understand.  Compared to what Jesus was about to teach, understanding Paul was a walk in the park.

For now, meditate upon these things from the fourth chapter of John’s gospel.

When it comes to worship, geography matters less than genuineness.  Let your worship be in spirit and in truth wherever you are.

Let doing the will of our Father in heaven be our real sustenance.  Enjoy your lunch, but be sustained by the word of God.

Don’t be cagey, dancing around the parts of your life that you would like to hide from the Lord.  You can’t do it.  Nothing is hidden from God.  Let God’s truth call you into the light where you can kick every dark thing to the curb.  Don’t be like the woman at the well.

Be like the woman at the well when it comes to sharing good news.  Don’t let your past get in your way.  Don’t let shame hold you back.  The world may still try to keep you down, but you have good news for that lost world and should share it with the same boldness that the woman who met Jesus at the well had.

Have faith like the man from Capernaum.  Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  Believe and do not doubt!


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

F4 Online - Wednesday 22 April 2020

Good evening.  We would love to be gathered together right now, overrun by children and youth and ready to gather for our Bible studies or worship after our meal.

But we are not there yet.  That does not mean that we just throw in the towel on our Wednesday nights.

I want to challenge you with scripture and messages and I want you to get Berean.  After you have been challenged, search the scriptures.

Beware that many make claims and arguments that attempt to twist and subvert scriptures to their own intentions.

How do you know when that’s happening?  You know the scriptures and you set aside your self and what you want God’s word to say, or that really cool interpretation that doesn’t quite fit the word of God but makes you unique—you only have to use the tools of the enemy to make your case.  What’s a little twist here and there?

Know your scriptures.

Seek God and his kingdom and his righteousness.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.

Believe in the one true God and do not doubt.

Profess Jesus is Lord. 

Believe that God raised him from the dead.

Know that we are to be known by our love.

We can know when we are being deceived, but first you must know your Bible.

We can know when we are being drawn off course, so know the voice of the Good Shepherd.

So, stay the course.  Continue your Bible study.  Let iron sharpen iron as you engage in your home Bible studies.

I am going to give you a scripture to meditate upon, especially in our present circumstances, then we will get to John, Chapter 4.

Many of you have memorized 2 Timothy 1:7 and say it frequently.  The words come in the context of general encouragement to Paul’s protégé and friend as surely Timothy was not walking the primrose path that some presume ministry to be.

Paul reminds his friend that he did not embark upon his ministry lightly and the Lord did not fail to equip him for this exact time.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

I have talked a lot about fear and how we all deal with it differently.  In the Parable of the Talents, the third servant’s fear was debilitating.  Fear can suck the life out of you.

If you are afraid, pray.  If you are afraid, seek the encouragement of other believers.  If you are afraid, step forward in faith.

Ask yourself, what would you do if you were not afraid.  Which leads us to the rest of the scripture.

God did not give us a spirit of fear, but he did give us power, love, and a sound mind.

We will save power and love for another time.  We spent a long time on the subject of love only a couple years ago.  It never gets old.  We sing there is power, power, wonderworking power, in the precious blood of the Lamb.
But for this time, let’s think on being granted a sound mind.

We don’t simple obey God or human authority mindlessly.  We make choices.  We have the ability to make sound choices. 

We have counsel not to be afraid in these present circumstances; yet, we have seen so many succumb to fear.  As many hoarded an interesting assortment of supplies because of fear of a pandemic, we wonder what will they do when the day comes to get back to normal—whatever that turns out to be.

Let’s consider what we will do.  First of all, let’s not let fear govern our decision.  This is the time for a sound mind. 

We want to balance our liberty, our ability to provide for our families, and our safety.  We want to protect our families and provide for them at the same time.

We want to shelter our most vulnerable yet sustain the way of life we once knew.

Fear can compel us to do things that we would not normally do.  Engaging a sound mind calls us to ask:

What would I do if I was not afraid?

The answer to that question is probably the soundest answer you can find.

It’s not that there are not risks and dangers.  There are.  Will they cause us to surrender all that we value or to skillfully engage new challenges?

So, if the state has a date set to get back to normal or start getting back to normal and your congregation has a date to resume gathering in some form or fashion, what are you to do?

Engage a sound mind!

Some of you don’t need to be back in the pew on Day 1.  Some don’t need to be back on Day 101.

Some of you can barely get by another Sunday without gathering.

Some of you have been working through the past few weeks practicing whatever procedures your employer implemented.

What are you to do?

Engage a sound mind!

Don’t act out of fear, but don’t act impulsively.  Pray about this.  Listen to what God tells you.  Implement his directions to the best of your ability.

If I see you on the first day when some number of us gather again, I will celebrate.

If I don’t see you on that day or the next week or the next month because you have engaged the sound mind that God gave you, I will miss you but won’t judge you.

Who am I to judge another man’s servant?

Don’t act out fear.  Decide what to do based upon the sound mind that God has given you.  The promise is that if you ask God for wisdom, he will give it without judging how you got where you are and he will be generous about it.  Don’t ask and doubt.  Ask and receive, then put that wisdom to work.
I will give you a battlefield analogy, because those have been in short supply in our online mode.

The soldier or Marine advances towards the enemy even though there is danger.  They overcome fear and complete their mission, but along the way, they use cover and concealment and supporting fires to improve their chances of success.  They engage a sound mind.

Fear does not debilitate them but that doesn’t mean they don’t implement their best practices.

I will leave you with this thought.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Now to our Bible Study.  We are reading John, Chapter 4 this week.  I have divided my messages into 4 parts.

Part 3 – The woman and the people she knows

When this live broadcast concludes momentarily, either read or watch Parts 1-3.  Use them as provocations to search the scriptures.

Find someone with whom you may discuss this chapter and these messages.  Let Iron sharpen iron.


Many believed that the Savior of the World had come

Read John 4

Think back to the end of the encounter of Jesus and the woman at the well.  She left her water jar at the well and went into town proclaiming what had just happened.

This could be the Christ.  He knew everything about me.  Come and see for yourself.

They did.  As the disciples were hearing about being sustained by doing the will of the Father, some from the town were on the way to see Jesus.

Many of those who came already believed that this man they were on their way to see was the Christ.  After meeting Jesus, they invited him to stay with them for a while.

He did.  Imagine that!

Jesus stayed with the people of the town of Sychar for two days and many more believed.  After he left, the people told this woman—this woman who was not living a godly lifestyle, that while they may have believed initially because of her testimony, now they believed because they met Jesus.

There’s some human nature right there.  When I tell my story later, I don’t want to have to say that I believed Jesus was the Christ because of this floozy. I got my belief first hand.  That’s human nature.

But the result was that many believed that Jesus was the Savior of the world.  Now that’s God’s nature revealed in a place where no self-respecting Jew would want to be seen.  Jesus spent two nights there and many believed.

It’s an interesting twist that reveals our nature.  We are just as susceptible to the same thing today.  We want to go one up on a fellow believer. 

Hey!  I’ve got the real scoop on that.

This is the one and only way.  Yeah, I know that Jesus is the way, but you need Jesus plus…

Even James and John wanted reserved seating with the Master in the life to come.

That’s our human nature, but this time we see God’s nature revealed in the woman that Jesus met at the well. 

She left her jar and her daily mission and her seclusion at the well and went and proclaimed that the Christ was here.

At that point, her past didn’t matter.  Her standing or lack of it in the community didn’t matter.

What mattered?

The Christ had come and that’s not something you keep to yourself. 

We don’t see doubt debilitating this woman for sharing what she knew to share.

We don’t see shame getting in the way of her message.

Jesus revealed the truth to her and that set her in motion.  She shared the good news.

Before I challenged you to examine yourselves and see if in your relationship with God you were like the woman—evading the darkness in your life with trifling conversation.

Now, I challenge you to consider if you share the gospel with the same boldness as the woman we have come to know in this chapter.

Do we let our past slow us down?

Do we let the opinions of others dissuade us?

Do we use our life experiences as testimony to the Christ?

Jesus got to Galilee before the end of this chapter, but for now, consider the encounter of Jesus and this woman and how she went from avoiding the other women of the town to the one who brought them the good news.

You won’t hear this from many preachers or Bible commentators, but with regard to sharing good news, we should cast off everything that held us back before and boldly proclaim Christ.

We should be more like the woman who met Jesus at the well.