Love


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. -1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

I was getting frustrated with a slow driver yesterday and I heard this in my mind: "Love is patient Bob". Yikes. It is so easy to embrace an intellectual view of love and forget that love is best defined by attitudes and actions. Paul speaks to us in these verses instructing us with regard to the attitudes and actions of love. He tells us that real love never fails.

I love the four "always" statements as they speak to us of the true nature of an attitude of love. When we love we are on such firm ground. We protect. We trust. We hope. And we persevere. Love is the lighthouse in the storm guiding us to safe shore. These verses instruct us and tell us what love really looks like. They tell us how to live a life of love.

Teach us Lord what it means to love and to develop an attitude of love as we travel through our lives.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.

Dominion


So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,
and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:27-28 ESV   



The Hebrew word radah can be translated reign, rule or have dominion. Interesting how God gave the world to mankind. He could have retained dominion over the earth but chose to delegate dominion to those he blessed and created in his image. Nothing seemed to be withheld in this dominion. Whatever the choices that humans made stood.

I suspect that a part of this delegation of authority is rooted in the idea that we are made in His image. As such we have the freedom to choose how we rule. Yet, unlike God, we do not seem to have the ability to always choose rightly. We choose bad over good. Hate over love. Our lives seem to point us to the reality that we are created good but often choose bad. And when we choose to do bad the earth, humanity and all we have dominion over suffers.

We have failed Lord. Our wars are evidence of our failure to exercise godly dominion. Help us to rule as you would.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.

Justice



Justice is a great word. I think that some would differ in how they define it. I like what the bible says about justice:
  • Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)
  • This is what the LORD says: “Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed.” (Jeremiah 21:12)
  • This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another.” (Zechariah 7:9)
  • Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. ( Isaiah 30:18)
That said, I think the definition many have of justice might resemble the human view which includes retribution and satisfaction. This is the way that a favorite author of mine puts it:
"There is a biblical concept of “judgement” or “wrath.” Jesus warned frequently that the people were calling judgement on themselves and called them to turn (repent) from the course they were on. Judgement or wrath is the consequence of sinful or hurtful action. It follows from sin like falling is the consequence of jumping off a cliff. Paul writes in the Romans that “the wages of sin is death.” The wage, the thing you get as a result, what you have coming to you, is death. “but the gift of God is eternal life.”

God who is a God of love (compassion) and justice (making this right) desires not to see us die, but to give us life. God desires to break us out of the vicious cycle of consequence and to therefore bring about justice—to make things right again, to restore us to where we where meant to be. Not by saying that it is of no consequence that we are bleeding and broken, but by taking us out of the treadmill of death, by liberating us from the tyranny of hurting and being hurt. That is what biblical justice is all about. It is not in conflict with compassion, it is rooted in compassion."
Yes, rooted in compassion, not in conflict with it. Not in conflict with the nature of our God who ever seeks to reconcile.

Lord, help us to live justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly at your side.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.

Times and Seasons


Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. -1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 ESV


There are two Greek words in the New Testament that are interpreted as 'time'. Kairos is translated as 'time' 64 times. In this passage, and 12 other places, it is translated 'seasons'. Chronos occurs 33 times and is mostly rendered as 'time'.

Two interesting words with different nuances of meaning. Chronos is the root of our English word chronology and denotes the passage of minutes. Kairos seems to focus not on the passage of minutes put on the value of them.

When I consider kairos, I remember that life is all about making time count. There are seasons of our life that pass and never come again. The clock still ticks but seasons of young children and youthful bliss pass on to new things.

It reminds me to make this season of my life count because it will never come again. Instead of counting the minutes I am encouraged to live fully into, and get the most out of, each hour. It is what Jesus did when he entered earth's time.

Teach us Lord, to be wise stewards of our time, to count our days and live fully into them.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.

Created


By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. -Hebrews 11:3 ESV

I think that the issue is not so much the "how" of creation but the "Who" of creation. By faith we can understand that God created all things. But faith does not necessarily dictate the how of creation. There is a mystery to creation regardless the way you interpret it. We only understand in part. We see it in glimpses through that proverbial cloudy glass.

There is a unity of faith in the many interpretations of the Genesis account of creation. Though they do not agree on the specifics, these views agree that God is the creator. It is important because the idea of a divine designer gives meaning and purpose to life as it is presents our existence as intentional and not random. On that people of faith can agree.

Marvelous are your ways Lord God. Teach us revel in the people that you have created us to be.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.

Image


He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; -Colossians 1:15 NRSV

Often we cannot reconcile our different views because we begin with different images of God. Some use the image of primitive people who saw God like Job saw him. One who metes out good and evil. One who gives and takes away.

Some begin with the view that the life of Jesus is the defining image of God. One who did not create the storm but spoke peace to it. One who did not cause anyone to suffer but suffered in their place. One who did not hurt but healed. One who showed us that God only did good and loving things and never did one bad thing.

In this world where religious people often paint a picture of a fallen God, there is nothing that speaks more deeply to me about God than the things that I read in the gospels. When I wonder what God is like I am reminded that Jesus Christ told Phillip that anyone who has seen Him has seen God. Jesus began his ministry by saying that He had come with:
  • good news for the poor;
  • freedom for prisoners;
  • sight for those walking in darkness;
  • liberty for those being oppressed and 
  • a message of favor and acceptance.
These words teach me that many have a skewed image of God. Some well meaning people simply teach bad news about God and paint him as one who causes bad things. These folks walk in bondage and seem to embrace a blind darkness about the true nature of God revealed in Jesus Christ. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.

Inspired


All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17 NRSV

What does it mean for the bible to be inspired by God? Are the writings of biblical authors perfectly written divine dictations? Did these men (yes only men wrote the books of the bible) hear the voice of God differently than people today? Some think that they did. Some see the patriarchs, prophets and disciples as infallible ancient popes.

Yet some see the scriptures a bit differently. I love the humanity of biblical authors. David was a bad dude who did bad things. Yet some of his writings speak so deeply to me. Moses was one of the greatest leaders. Yet he seemed constrained, as we all are, by the culture he lived in. In these men I see divine inspiration in such a different light.

Help us Lord to find inspiration in the way that you used fallible people to write the scriptures.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible..

Where you do not wish to go ...


Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” ... When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” -John 21:18,21-22 NRSV

I love how fearlessly Peter is when he speaks to Jesus. He seems to verbalize the kind of questions that I often ask. It is hard to understand why "bad" things happen to some and not others. Peter would be crucified and John live to an old age. Each were followers and friends of the Lord. Yet each walked a different path as they followed God in their lives.

The phrase "take you where you do not wish to go" is so tough yet so true. It reminds me about how little control we have over the big things in our lives. Cancer hits the healthiest of us. Kids can break our hearts. Accidents happen. These things have the power to instruct us and teach us to trust the Lord for both the present and the future.

You are trustworthy Lord. I commit myself and my future into your loving arms. With your help, I will follow you.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

Do you love me?


He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” -John 21:17 NRSV

John tells us that this was the third appearance that Jesus made to the disciples after the resurrection. The Lord meets them on the beach and, over breakfast, questions Peter about whether he really loves him. It was such a difficult, yet important, conversation. Peter needed to be reminded that just days before he denied the Lord three times.

I do not think that Peter left that breakfast the same man. With each humbling question came a command to tend and feed the Lord's flock. It was as if Jesus was telling Peter that he needed more than words. He needed to put his love into action. It is a reminder to all of us, who profess to love the Lord, that divine love demands divine action.

We fall short Lord. Our mouth speaks of our love but our actions contradict our words. Help us to love in word and deed.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

Jesus did many other signs ...


Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. -John 20:30-31 NRSV

As John wraps up his Jesus story, he seems to take a breath and speak to us about the reason for his writing. He presents no treatise on the nature of sin or our need to repent. He says nothing about the Jewish scriptures. He summarizes his gospel in a few words. Jesus is the Messiah and believing in him is all about having real life.

That message is so different than many religious ones that we hear even today. Instead of delineating five steps to religious success, John simply tells us to believe that Jesus is who he said that he is. It is a simple message yet one that goes against our works oriented approach to God. Even so, I have found it to be a life giving message.

Lord, lead us in the ways that lead to life in your name. Help us to find hope in the name of Jesus.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

Do not doubt but believe.


Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” -John 20:27-29 NRSV

It is a week after Easter. Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to the disciples and has refused to accept the testimony of those who saw the resurrected Christ. In an intense dramatical moment the Lord once again materializes before his friends. Jesus offers Thomas a rebuke. Thomas is shocked into belief and can utter but a few words.

I think that Thomas is representative of many 21st century skeptics. Society's preoccupation with things that can be experienced with our senses have blinded some from things that can only be seen through the eyes of faith. Such folks relegate the resurrection of Christ to myth. Even so, the words of Christ still ring true, we are blessed when we believe.

We are blind Lord. Open our eyes to your invisible kingdom. Help us to believe even though we have not seen,


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

He breathed on them ...


Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” -John 20:21-23 NRSV

It is Sunday evening. The disciples are gathered together in a locked room. Rumors are flying around about Jesus being alive. Fear and confusion abound. Then, in an instant, all fear is gone. Jesus materializes before them like something right out of Star Trek. His first word to them is peace. What an amazing entrance of the resurrected Messiah!

I love the way that he breathes on them, imparts the Holy Spirit and commissions them for ministry. So interesting that John remembers most that this holy mission was first about the message of forgiveness. Just a few days earlier John heard Jesus forgive those who drove nails into his hands. Now forgiveness would be the centerpiece of all ministry.

Father, forgive those who have hurt us and caused us pain. Help us to release our pain and join you in that forgiveness.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

She bent over to look into the tomb ...


Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb ... Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. -John 20:11,15-17 NRSV

I so love this exchange between Mary and Jesus. The transition from tears to joy speaks so deeply to me about the transformative power of the resurrection. Isn't it so interesting how Mary did not pay too much attention to this guy lurking around the tomb? It was unimaginable that this "gardner" could be the one she followed for many years.

Then he spoke her name and everything changed. Gardner became Teacher! Death became Life. Sorrow became Joy! I can see her rushing to him with a holy embrace. Such is the impact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ even today. Believing that Jesus is alive gives us a holy hope that we will transcend death to live with him forever.

Dear Lord Jesus. Because you live we live too. Because of the resurrection our fear of death is gone. Thanks be to God.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

As yet they did not understand the scripture...


Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. -John 20:3-10 NRSV

Two days have past since they laid Jesus in the tomb. Mary Magdalene has come from his grave and found it empty. The disciples cannot believe her. Peter and John race to verify her story. The drama is unfolding. The grave clothes have been removed. Jesus has come back from the dead. Yet these two cannot imagine what has already happened.

If not for the witness of people like Mary, I too would not understand the scripture. I was a bitter man in 1975 when my wife Ellen had an amazing experience of healing and salvation. Her healing from blindness was unbelievable and I rejected the idea that God had healed her. Yet on a beautiful day in April 1976 my eyes were opened and I understood.

Lord, please open the eyes and hearts of hurting people, that they might understand that Jesus has risen from the dead.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

They took the body of Jesus


After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. -John 19:38-40 NRSV

Again I want to think about those that were there on that day. John tells us that two unexpected disciples showed up to bury Jesus. A man named Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Nicodemus, the Pharisee, brought a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes. How odd that such men would risk so much to publicly identify with Jesus.

I wonder what was going through John's mind as he watched these events unfold. Did he flash back to the words that Jesus shared with Nicodemus, that night so long ago, about being born again? He must have been amazed by the courage of these two men. It reminds me of the unseen secret disciples that impact the world every day.

Thank you Lord for the secret disciples who courageously follow you in the way of love.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

So that you also may believe ...


    He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe.
    His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth. -John 19:35 NRSV



Jesus died and John helplessly stood by watching his friend executed before his eyes. I cannot imagine how traumatic this was for him to witness. Time has passed since that day. Years later John is writing and remembering that life changing day. As he recounts the events of that sad day he pauses to insure his readers that his recounting is true.

John's words remind me that the gospels are filled with eyewitness accounts of the life, teachings and ministry of Jesus Christ. They were written by people like John who were simply testifying to the truth. They wrote so that people, who were not eyewitnesses, could have a reason to believe. They speak and witness to us yet today. And invite us to believe.

Lord, we pray for those who have never read the gospels. Give them opportunities to hear about Jesus. And believe.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

I am thirsty. ... It is finished.


Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. -John 19:28-30 NRSV

I want to again look at the cross through the eyes of Mary, John and others at the cross. They had no understanding about what would happen in just a few days. Unlike us, they had no ability to see the cross in light of the resurrection. It reminds me of that day that I stood by my wife's side when she breathed her last breath. "It is finished" seemed so final.

Jesus' death seemed both human and divine. Like a man, he was thirsty. Like God, he had power to leave his body. Yet the people who were watching Jesus die did not understand the divine part of the story. It causes me to consider how I forget about my own divine story. I am more than the sum of the things that happen to me. Divinity lives in me.

Lord help me to remember that I am part human and part divine because you live in me.


... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.