Lord, I believe.

Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” -John 9:37-39 NRSV

This passage speaks to me about how religious pride causes spiritually blindness. The setting reeks of Pharisaic arrogance as Jewish leaders grill a man healed of blindness about the One who gave him sight. Instead of rejoicing with this one who has never seen a day of his life they choose to belittle him and doubt him. Heartbreaking.

In stark contrast to this religious arrogance is the humility of one who falls down in worship and says “Lord, I believe.” Such a testimony speaks to how this man had more than his outer eyes opened. His worship tells us about the opening of his inner eyes. And Jesus' acceptance of his worship teaches us that He knew that he was God.

Lord, I believe.

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

Though I was blind, now I see.

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” ... So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” -John 9:16-17,24-25

Religious people are sometimes freaked out by things that cannot be naturally explained. I was freaked out when God healed my first wife - like the man in this story she was blind and began to see. And I was totally freaked out when she passed her driver's exam. Like the Pharisees, this quazi-religious Episcopalian was clueless about such things.

I love the simplicity of the healed man's responses. No theological mumbo-jumbo. He called Jesus a prophet but you get the sense that he was not sure what that meant. He stuck to his own experience and testified only about what happened to him. It is an example of how we should act. Tell people what you know. Stick to the facts and let God do the rest.

Open our eyes Lord. Expand our vision. Sharpen our inner sight. That we might see Jesus in our midst.

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

While it is Day

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent) ... they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” -John 9:4-7,10-11

Do you think it odd that Jesus did not just touch the blind man and make him whole. Certainly he could have simply spoke a word and his sight would have returned. Yet the Lord chose to involve the man in his own healing. How interesting that spit and mud would be the agents of healing. Perhaps the spit and mud are representative of the medicines that we are sometimes called to take? In truth, I struggle against taking my daily pills. What I want is a faster kind of healing.

Jesus seems to begin this passage with an acknowledgment that his days were numbered. In the same sense our lives are finite. Our capability to do good on earth is limited by the number of days in our life. Yet each day that we awake we have an opportunity to work the works of God. Each day we can bring a bit of healing to the lives of others. We can also bring a bit of healing to ourselves if we choose to see our pills as divine spit and mud.

Open our eyes Lord to the proverbial spit and mud all around us. And cause us to be agents of healing in the world.

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

Who Sinned?

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. -John 9:1-3 NRSV

This question plagues humanity yet today. Something bad happens and people want someone to blame. Earthquakes destroy villages, tsunamis flood coastal regions and people want to blame somebody. What is it in us that seeks to cast judgment in times when mercy is needed? Is it theology gone bad or something deeper that causes us to ask such questions? Have some embraced a weird form of karma or do we make up answers to unanswerable questions?

I love the way that Jesus answers the question. First he hits at the heart of the question ... no one sinned ... there is no one to blame. Secondly he teaches us that the works of God are not limited to the sinless. In saying that he does not say that sin is okay or that God makes people blind. He transcends a black/white cause/effect perspective and challenges us to go beyond our fleshly limitations. In both aspects of his answer he communicates a divine mercy and grace.

Help us Lord to fix our eyes on you instead of our failings and sins.

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

Who do you claim to be?

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be? ... Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. -John 8:52,53,56-59 NRSV

With these words Jesus ends his interaction with the Jewish leaders. They claimed to be the true seed of Abraham while Jesus called them children of the father of lies. In response they called Jesus a demonized Samaritan. And now, with one breathtaking declaration, Jesus reveals the truth of who he really is. And the Jews understood him perfectly.

They understood that, with the words "I Am", Jesus was claiming to be God. This declaration is hard to get our minds around. It is difficult to understand the idea of the infinite God becoming a finite man. Yet the testimony is not from one of his followers but from Jesus himself. And our choice is to either believe him or pick up a stone to cast at him.

With the writers of the Nicene Creed we confess our belief "in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man."

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

This is not what Abraham did.

I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.” They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. -John 8:38-40 NRSV

I love how Abraham is called the Father of the faith. In his life we do not see a perfect man but a faithful follower of God. His entrance into the land of promise was a humble entry. No soldiers. No arrogance - he gave his nephew Lot the best land. He courageously defended his nephew (and his family) when others attacked and kidnapped them.

Yet somehow Abraham's example of faith was lost over the years. People seemed to change the focus to a faith in the Law of Moses instead of a faith (that Abraham had) in God. A hard evaluation for sure but one that we must always consider when use the scriptures, as these religious leaders did, to pronounce judgment on others.

Help me Lord to remember to focus my faith on Jesus and the divine image that he gives us in the gospels.

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

The truth will make you free.

Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him. Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” -John 8:28-32 NRSV

There is an interesting turn of the conversation in this passage. Up to now the discourse has been between Jesus and the religious leaders. Then, as faith seems to arise as people begin to actually hear him, Jesus turns his attention to believers speaking to them about continuing to believe in the things that he is teaching.

I love the way that he talks about truth. He could have waxed religious but chose to speak to a truth that makes people free. And in the verses following this passage he teaches them, and us, that truth releases us from the bondage of sin.

In my own life the truth that I am forgiven and adopted by God has turned my life inside out. The truth that God loves me affects my life in a way that causes me to act like his child. This is the freeing truth that Jesus speaks about. This divine love is "the light of life" that Jesus spoke about earlier. Love make us free and love keeps us free.

Thank you Lord for the truth that makes me free. May I ever live in that knowledge.

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

Why do I speak to you at all?

Then they said to him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” ... He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. ... They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? ... They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. -John 8:19,23,25,27 NRSV

I liken this exchange to one that I would have with a rocket scientist. I might understand (most of) the words that they are speaking to me but everything I hear is like a foreign language because I am unfamiliar with the scientific concepts. So it is with Jesus and his listeners. They understood the words that he spoke but not the concepts.

Yet unlike my problem understanding rocket science the Jews obstacle was one of the heart and not the head. Their hearts were inclined to the Law and not the Lawgiver. They had a zeal but not for God - a fundamental mistake that many make even today. It is why we must filter everything in scripture through the life, teachings and ministry of Christ.

Teach me Lord to read the scriptures with your eyes and your heart.

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

You judge by human standards; I judge no one.

You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.” -John 8:15-18 NRSV

It is a sobering to think that God came to us in human form and our response was to judge him. What is it about humanity that causes us to want to judge another human being? Do we not understand the folly of such activity? Each of understands, at some level, the superficiality of our judgment yet we continue to act as if we know another's heart.

And even worse, we find a way to use the bible (Jesus called it "your law") to support our bad behavior. Isn't it interesting how, time after time, Jesus refused to judge the adulterer, the drunkard and the prostitute but seemed to judge the hypocrisy of religious people at every turn? It speaks to me of the hypocrisy of my judging another person.

Forgive my hypocrisy Lord. Help me to love and not judge anyone.

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

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness ...

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. -John 8:12-14 NRSV

Many think that Jesus was just a man. A good man for sure. A great teacher. Some think him to be a prophet. His words in this passage indicate that he was much more. You would think a person was insane if they described themselves as the light of the world. These words demand that we embrace Jesus as something more than a man.

The gospels make it clear that Jewish religious leaders had it wrong about Jesus' earthly origins - they were not aware that he was born in Bethlehem. They were even more clueless about his heavenly origins. They walked in darkness.

In contrast Jesus tells us that his followers "will never walk in darkness". He teaches us that these "will have the light of life". In saying this he alludes to the wonder of the new birth and the powerful light of the Holy Spirit living in his followers. These no longer walk in darkness but are filled with divine light. These have had the eyes of their hearts opened.

We follow you so imperfectly Lord. Open our eyes today that we might be led by your divine light within us.

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

Neither do I condemn you.

And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” -John 8:8-11 NRSV

Act three of this moving biblical drama begins when the first stone hits the ground. All of the stone throwers have left. The adulteress is now alone with Jesus. I wonder what emotions were flooding her mind? Just a few minutes ago she feared an imminent and painful death. In her wildest dreams she never imagined an ending such as this.

Do you find it interesting that this woman did not ask to be forgiven? I wonder if she prayed as she was being dragged to Jesus? What did she think Jesus would say? Could she have ever imagined that Jesus would look past every one of her condemning thoughts? This passage speaks so deeply to me about how I am forgiven and freed from condemnation.

Thank you Lord for the forgiving love that you show me and the condemnation that you have delivered me from.

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

He Straightened Up

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. -John 8:6-9 NRSV

Part two of this three act passage. The prosecution thought they had Jesus dead to rights. They had divine law on their side. How could Jesus refute Moses. This adulterous woman was certainly guilty and deserving of stoning. Jesus did not have a proverbial leg to stand on. Yet in a beautiful moment Jesus stood and everything changed.

This passage shames everyone who is thirsty for judgment. Jesus exposes each of us who would judge another human being. With the words "without sin" he tells each of us that the log in our own eye is the sin that disqualifies us from passing judgment. Christ removes all excuses and causes us to drop our judgmental stones.

Forgive me Lord. I have judged the ones that you love. Help me to offer mercy when tempted to judge.

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

Moses commanded us to stone such women.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. -John 8:3-6 NRSV

This is part one of a three part story. I call this part "The Accusation". Interesting how often people use religious rules and laws to accuse another. More interesting in this case that only the woman was accused. Mosaic law commanded that the man should also be stoned. Hard to believe that religious people would act with such self-righteous cruelty.

I often hear the phrase: "Love the sinner but hate the sin". My response is: "Hate your own sin". Do you see how this applies to these religious leaders? Would that they sincerely loved this hurting woman and hated their own self-righteousness. Perhaps they would have, in humility, brought this woman to Jesus for healing instead of condemnation?

Dear Father, bring us to a place of examination where we are able to take the logs out of our own eyes.

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

Never has anyone spoken like this!

Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.” -John 7:45-49 NRSV

Jesus spoke amazing words of life, compassion and healing, yet some believed him to be a heretic. Faith and hope were birthed in many who heard him speak. But sadly, those who were bound up in religion proudly opposed Jesus and his message of mercy and compassion. Small wonder that Christ called them hypocrites devoid of mercy.

And even today, leaders still seems to be preoccupied with religious orthodoxy more than they are with mercy and compassion. I sometimes wonder if they would recognize Christ if he appeared to them today. These who are versed in doctrine, would they too call others accursed? Or would they repent of their narrow orthodoxy and welcome them?

Help is Lord to be people who welcome those who welcome you.

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

There was division ... because of Him.

Some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.  [John 7:40-44 NRSV]

Throughout history there has been divisions about the identity of Christ. Theologians have sometimes called it a trilemma. Scottish preacher John Duncan put it this way: "Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable."

Interesting how Jesus could have settled much of this when he became man. He could have come like Superman and showed us his physical strength. He could have gone around saying that he is the messiah. But he seemed to want to remain anonymous. He was happy with being Clark Kent. He left so much of this identity thing to faith.

Open the eyes of our hearts Lord that we might see you and understand who you really are.

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

Rivers of Living Water

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. -John 7:37-39 NRSV

This is one of my favorite Jesus quotes. He does not say that believing in him will cause a person to get their act together and be more religious but speaks of an inner change that erupts into life giving water. Being a Christian has never been about following religious rules. That was what got the Pharisees in trouble. They worked from the outside in.

Being a Christian has always been about a new heart. A spiritual birth. Inner life that grows from birth to infancy to maturity. Something that flows like a river from our innermost being. My life changed dramatically when I was born of the Spirit so many years ago. My desires changed as I felt the Spirit flow from deep within in me.

Help me Lord to live from my new heart. Cause me to remember who I am and who I am called to be.

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

I am going to him who sent me.

Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” -John 7:33-36 NRSV

It is easy for us to look back and understand that Jesus was speaking of returning to his Father in heaven. Many things that are apparent today seemed hidden back then. I mean really, who could have foreseen the turn of events that led up to Jesus being crucified? Yet in this passage we understand that Jesus has seen his future suffering and death.

Sometimes I wish that I had an understanding of my future. Other times I am glad that our Father has not chosen to reveal it to me. Yet while I do not know the details of my earthly death I am overjoyed that God has told me a bit of the place I will go after I die. A place with no pain and no tears. An eternal home where I am loved. A destination filled with God.

Thank you Lord for the hope of heaven. May I live today as one who knows his heavenly citizenship.

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

You do not know him ...

Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
[John 7:28-31 NRSV]   

Jesus is such a polarizing figure. Some in this passage tried to arrest him while others saw him as the Messiah.
Isn't it interesting how people reacted so differently to him? I think that is true even today. Seeing Jesus has always required the inner vision of the Holy Spirit. And those who resist His work are blinded to spiritual things.

I love how Jesus speaks about knowing God. He declared that he actually knew God. He then made it known that those who rejected him did not know God. That is such a bold statement. In truth, knowing God is what real life is all about. Knowing about God or even about what the bible says is not enough. But through prayer we can know Him.

Help us to know you Lord. Fill us with your Spirit as we turn our hearts towards you.

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

Do not judge by appearances ...

“Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” -John 7:19-24 NRSV

One of my favorite passages in the scriptures is when the prophet Samuel goes to Jesse's family looking for a man to replace King Saul. As he examines Jesse's sons he looks primarily at their outward appearance. He has not learned much since he chose Saul as king. His selection criteria seems to be the same. He is looking for a man who looks like a king. Samuel wants a tall man like Saul. A man who looks like a king. Samuel was certainly judging by appearances. Until God Spoke to him and told him to transcend his outer vision and see with the eyes of his spirit.

Like Samuel, the folks who accused Jesus of having a demon were bound up in their outward religion. These, who seemed to love the law of Moses, missed the very heart of what the law taught and required. These could not see the Son of God among them because their focus was on external rules like not healing on the Sabbath. Like Samuel, they wanted a Saul and not a David. They judged by outward appearances. These were looking for an earthly king. They were angry and could not see the heart of Jesus because they were blinded by appearances.

Lord help us to see as you see. Help us to not judge by appearances. Give us eyes to see the heart.

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

My teaching is not mine but his who sent me.

About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?” Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him. -John 7:14-18 NRSV

Some think that the Jesus' teachings were those he learned on a trip to another land. Some think that he was a disciple of John the Baptist. From a human perspective it is difficult to accept that his teachings were original and not copied. He always seemed to go right to the heart of an issue. He had the ability to transcend his religious teaching and heritage.

The folks of his day, and of ours too, struggled not because they could not understand his teaching but because they would not. To understand the scriptures one must, as Jesus puts it here, resolve to do the will of God and seek to glorify Him. To do this we must also be willing to transcend the limitations of our religious teachings and heritage.

Give us open hearts and hearing ears Lord that we may transcend our human limitations.

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

My time has not yet come ...

He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. ... Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. -John 7:1,6-7 NRSV

It is an odd scenario. God has appeared in human form. Religious people are plotting to kill him not for heresy but because of hatred. The ones who should reflect love and mercy have given themselves over to hate and violence. Such is the state of religion back then. Such is the condition of religion today. Abuse of power seems to permeate religion.

Yet I am in awe of Christ's wisdom and discernment. It would have been so easy for impatience to overwhelm him. His words challenge me to discern the season and time that I live in. I am so often driven by impulse. Patience seems so far away and yet so very near. It is an issue of discerning His voice. And trusting God's leading with all of my heart.

Teach me to discern the day Lord. Grant me patience in my decisions. Help me to trust you with all I am.

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

You have the words of eternal life.

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him. -John 6:66-71 NRSV

Jesus has been speaking about how the Spirit gives life and not the flesh. It is a difficult teaching for those who experience life in fleshly activities. In reality, I too struggle with this teaching. Sometimes, when life is turned inside out and pain knocks on my front door, God seems far away. And my faith seems so weak when I am hurting.

These words of Jesus challenge me. Will I be one who perseveres in faith? Or will I be one who turns back in unbelief? In these times I echo Peter's words. I have built my life on the words of Jesus. He is the one who gives me life in times of deep sorrow. I believe that he is the Messiah, the Holy One of God. It is because of Christ that I persevere in trial.

Help me to remember Lord. And hold fast to your words. You indeed have the words of eternal life.

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

Some who do not believe ...

It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” -John 6:63-65 NRSV

It is an age old debate. Does God grant the ability to believe to just a few or does that ability lie within each of us? Doubtful in these few sentences that I will sway you one way or another on that question. Yet it is clear that John was thinking about Judas Iscariot when he wrote about how people could be outwardly religious yet inwardly unbelieving.

Interesting how John only knew this after Judas betrayed Christ. It is like he was telling us that no one but Christ knows who truly believes. The point was not to answer the question that I posed above but to speak to each of us about believing the words that give us "spirit and life" and to allow ourselves to be drawn and led by the Spirit.

Father, grant us to come to you today. Renew us that we might receive your life and your Spirit.

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

It is the spirit that gives life ...

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. -John 6:60-63 NRSV

I wonder what the disciples were saying to each other when Jesus spoke to them of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. To the carnal mind his words must have seemed cannibalistic in nature. Yet the words of Christ were never ever meant to be taken carnally. Eating and drinking in Christ has always been about taking his Spirit deep within.

Don't you love how Jesus connects life with spirit? When he speaks of his words being spirit and life he is teaching us what life is all about. What being human was meant to be from the very beginning. Being human has never been about human flesh but about the Spirit of God living in human flesh. To genuinely live is to live from a place deep within.

We long to see you ascending Lord. Open our eyes to what your Spirit is doing all around us.

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

The one who eats this bread will live forever.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” -John 6:52-58 NRSV

Some interpret this passage in a eucharistical fashion. These believe that we actually partake of Jesus' flesh and blood during communion. Even so, it is good to remember the context of this passage is the teaching that Jesus is the bread of life. And Christ was speaking in the present tense and not about a future communal meal.

I love how Jesus connects abiding in Him with nourishing our souls with his very being. Instead of speaking about an occasional eucharistic meal, the Lord reminds us that life is not about physical manna but about spiritual bread. In doing so he points us to an eternal relationship with him that transcends earthly confines and earthly bread.

Help to abide in you today Lord. Help me to sense your presence and gorge myself on eternal bread.

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

I am the bread of life.

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” -John 6:48-51
In ancient times Israel sojourned in the wilderness and God provided heavenly manna for them. Each morning the Jews would wake up to a substance that they could pick and bake. It was and is a lasting example to us of the faithfulness of God to his people. It speaks to me of how our relationship with him requires us to seek out spiritual nourishment.

We are not far into the ministry of Christ and he is already teaching us about how he will offer his body "for the life of the world". Notice that he speaks of both those who eat and the world in general. It reminds me that a stomach is not filled by looking at the bread but by eating it. Spiritual hunger is not filled by assenting to God but by engaging with him.

Help us Lord to seek you each day and to find ways to engage with you in our daily living.

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

I like Providence more than Sovereignty

Ever think about that verse in Psalms 23 that speak of God's rod and staff comforting us? I wonder if the rod and staff can be somewhat representative of providence and sovereignty? Ann and I were talking yesterday and I found myself saying something like this: "I think that I believe more in the providence of God than in the sovereignty of God."

I want to unpack that thought in this post and maybe reflect a bit on how those two big words relate to my life. Firstly I have to say that I believe in both terms as described here:
Providence: the foreseeing care and guidance of God over His creation.

Sovereignty: God's absolute right and ability to do all things according to his will.
I think that these terms sometimes get us in trouble when we read too much into them. For example - we can error if we believe that because God is sovereign He wills bad things to happen us. We can also mistakenly take His providential care for granted thinking that our actions are not important because He can use bad stuff as well as good.

Getting back to my thinking about these words.. when I think of them two passages of scripture comes to mind. The first is Satan's interaction with God in the first two chapters of Job - here we see that God allows bad things to happen to one of His followers.. in this we see that nothing happens apart from God's permissive will.. because He is sovereign even Satan has to ask permission to do bad things.. it is a comforting thought but not too comforting when you understand that all of Job's children died.

When I think about Providence my mind wanders to the eighth chapter of Romans and the verse that is at the heart of what is means to believe in the providential nature of the Lord:
We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Life happens.. bad things happens.. look at Job.. nevertheless God is at work in our situations.. even using the bad stuff to accomplish His purposes. I find comfort in that verse.. I find comfort in God's providence. I also find comfort that Satan has to ask God for permission to attack me - but not that much.. I'd rather that God prevented instead of permitted Satan's actions.. I am a wimp like that. :)

Another verse that strengthens me and kind of ties these two words together is found in the tenth chapter of First Corinthians:
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
I like this verse.. the ornery side of me says that people who do not have difficulties must be weak people that cannot stand up under temptation.. but the gracious part of me understands that God's providence and sovereignty is a package deal. His providence helps us when His sovereignty allows bad stuff to happen to us.

I still like His Providence more though.. it comforts and blesses me to know that He is there during the difficult times that His sovereignty permits.

Another blast from the past - first posted in March 2010.

He has seen the Father

Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.
Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. -John 6:45-47 NRSV

Jesus absolutely knew who is was when he walked the earth. His teaching and his ministry seems to emanate a confidence that stems from knowing the Father in a way that is unlike anyone who has ever professed to know Him.
So it is not surprising that such a one would be so confident concerning the means of having has eternal life.

So what do you think Jesus means when he speaks of coming to him? Is he just saying that one just needs to say a prayer? Is believing all about answering an altar call? Or is it something much deeper? Perhaps eternal life is just that. Life that begins today. Belief that emanates the life of God ... a life that resembles the life of Christ Jesus.

Endow us today Lord with a heart that believes and a life that emanates your presence in our hearts.

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

Whose father and mother we know?

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.
[John 6:41-45 NRSV]

Growing up in the church I thought that I knew all about God and religion. Then in my mid-twenties I began to realize how little I knew of the bible and Jesus Christ. I was confronted with the fact that faith was more about a relationship than a religion. Such is the quandary that man young people find themselves in. Familiarity is not the same as knowledge.

Such is the case of those who saw Jesus grow up in Nazareth. They believed that Joseph, not God, was his father. So it was difficult for them to accept the idea that he was from heaven. Yet there were some among them who got past this. Some of these were allowing themselves to be drawn by the Father. Some were allowing their hearts and not their heads to lead them. Some had both heard and learned the truth about who Jesus really was. These things are true even today.

Help us Lord to not allow familiarity to keep us from being drawn to you. Give us a heart to trust you today.

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

Never be hungry ... never be thirsty

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” -John 6:35-40 NRSV

This passage speaks to me of the satisfaction that a believer finds in Christ. Our deepest hunger is filled and our inner thirst quenched when we respond to the calling of the Holy Spirit. I can relate to that. In April of 1976 my life was changed when the Holy Spirit came, filled me and satisfied the longing in my soul. Everything changed.

Yet the truth is that some rejected Christ. And today people reject the calling of the Spirit. In this passage we learn that the invitation is to whoever comes and whoever believes. We understand that it is God's will to raise believers to eternal life. Knowing this is the source of great hope for those who believe in the One who has come down from heaven.

Lord, you are the One who has come down from heaven. We believe in you. Fill us afresh with your Spirit.

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

The true bread from heaven.

So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” -John 6:29-34 NRSV

The question has been asked for many years. Are we human beings or human doings? Are we known for who we are or for what we do? In this passage people were more interested in what Jesus was doing than with who he was. These wanted manna from heaven and did not realize that the true Manna from Heaven was standing before them.

Even today we all suffer from an unhealthy fixation on earthly bread and so often lose sight of the heavenly variety. In our quest (and our prayers) for signs from God we set ourselves up and miss the true bread from heaven. By focusing on the carnal we lose sight of the delicious bread of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, patience, perseverance, faithfulness and temperance. These qualities are all about who we are in God and not about what he can do for us.

We honor and celebrate you Lord. Teach us to daily receive the Bread that comes from Heaven.

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

This is the work of God ...

They said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” -John 6:25-29 NRSV

It seems that there has always been a tension between faith and works. James writes about this declaring "faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead". So it is interesting that Jesus here tells us that the work of God is actually believing in himself. The idea challenges me. I want life to be all about what I do and not what I believe. In truth, it is a bit of both.

The ministry of Jesus teaches us that belief always leads to works. Apart from the amazing healings and miracles done at the hands of Christ, no one would understand that God had come to plant earth. Yet in this passage the Lord reminds us that the work of God is not all about signs and wonders but about believing. It is the food that endures for eternal life.

Lord, help us to to embrace faith and find the food that endures for eternal life. Please transform us as we believe in you.

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

It is I; do not be afraid.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. -John 6:16-21 NRSV

Ever wonder what the message is in passages like this? I mean, what are we to make of Jesus walking on water, calming seas and stopping winds. Perhaps it is simply an illustration of his sovereignty and power over the forces of nature? Or maybe it is an illustration of his desire to save and protect the ones that he dearly loves?

I do wonder what it would have been like to have been in that boat way back then. Struggling with the winds and the waters the disciples look up and see the image of a man walking towards them. I think fear is the normal reaction in times like these. Jesus calming words reminded them, and us today, that we do not have to be afraid when life is treacherous. In such times of trial we can rest in knowing that He is with us and will save us in the end.

Help us to not be afraid Lord Jesus. Teach us to recognize your presence in the storms of life.

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

This is indeed the prophet ...

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. -John 6:12-15 NRSV

I wonder why Jesus asked his disciples to gather up the leftovers. Perhaps these fragments were simply a reminder of this amazing miracle? It reminds me of how there always seems to be residual effects of the working of God. Changes in our lives seem to be a part of that testimony. When we look back we are reminded of His working in our lives.

I think that the ministry of Jesus was scattered with events like this where people, amazed by what he did, wanted to make him their king. Hurting and oppressed people always want an earthly Messiah. They always want fleshly answers to their prayers. Yet the Lord understood that his kingdom, and our kingdom, is not of this world.

Cause us to seek first your kingdom Lord. We pray that it would come today in our lives.

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

Blogroll Update

If you have a blog and regularly read this blog I would love to add you to my blogroll.

Five barley loaves and two fish ...

Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. -John 6:7-11 NRSV

It is true, when some people see obstacles others see opportunity. Not sure what Andrew was thinking when he mentioned the fish and the bread. He seemed a bit hesitant yet Jesus saw past that and began to do something that no one ever could have imagined. I cannot imagine what it was like to see the loaves and the fishes multiplied.

This passage speaks to me this morning about my need to see past what I see and believe for things that I cannot imagine. I need to think with my inner being instead of my outer one. I must reject fleshly thoughts of earthly solutions. Like Andrew, I need to offer what I have to God and trust him to take care of whatever needs I may have.

I give you my meager loaves and fish today Lord. I give you what I have and trust you to meet all of my needs.

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

Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” -John 6:1-7 NRSV

Jesus fame is spreading. People are hearing about the healing of the man by the pool of Beth-zatha and how Jesus has challenged the religious leaders about healing on the Sabbath. Large crowds follow him in hopes that they might get a glimpse of a miracle. People so want to see a miracle. Their lives are hard and they want to know that God is alive.

Philip is such a person needing to see the power of God. One needing to see life with inner eyes. Needing to see things invisible to his outer senses. Jesus challenges him but Philip can only see a solution with his head. I so resonate with Philip. I rarely factor the power of God into my answers. I so want to see a miracle but cannot get past earthly thinking.

Open the eyes of my heart Lord that I might see you and understand your workings in my life.

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

I know that you do not have the love of God in you.

I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” -John 5:41-47 NRSV

There is a verse in Deuteronomy (15:4) that speaks to Israel and says that there should be no poor among them. This verse and many others in the Jewish scriptures were pretty much ignored by the first century Jewish teachers. Of these Jesus indicted with words like hypocrite. And in this passage he tells them that they do not have the love of God in them.

In truth, our twenty-first century Christianity sometimes looks a bit like the faith espoused by the Jewish leaders that Christ confronted. Many times our faith is focused on personal piety and our giving is directed at church buildings, salaries and programs. And in all this one has to wonder where the love of God for the poor is. How can we say that we love God and not care for the least among us? Have we just become a people who rationalize away our bad behavior?

We open our hearts today Lord. Fill us with your Spirit. Fill us with your love. Break our hearts for the least among us.

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

You refuse to come to me to have life.

The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent. “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. -John 5:36-40 NRSV

I sometimes wonder how learned and intelligent people such as the Scribes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees missed it so badly. These purportedly had a keen understanding of the Hebrew scriptures yet did not recognize God himself when he came to them. It speaks to me of how things like religious pride and self-righteousness can spiritually blind us. And as Jesus puts it, this unbelief keeps the true and living Word of God from living within.

In my view there is not a lack of evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. I cannot envision a greater divine representation than the image of God that we see in the Jesus that is described in the gospel accounts. He is matchless. His teachings, compassion and miracles stand alone in history. Yet it is not rationality that is at issue but a stern refusal to believe. Like those religious Jews, many today are blinded by their refusal to see the obvious.

We come to you Lord Jesus. You have the words of life. We open our hearts to believe and to hear your voice.

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

I have a testimony greater than John’s.

You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. -John 5:33-36 NRSV

I recently read a book that asserted that Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist. One cannot read passages such as these and accept that view. Jesus esteemed John but certainly did not see him as his teacher. And of course, the Baptist saw Jesus as one who was greater than he was. He said that he was not worthy to loose the sandals of Christ.

In this passage and many others Jesus did not shrink back from proclaiming his true identity. He called his testimony greater than human. Even greater than those of a prophet. He said that his words led to salvation. In the sermon on the mount he clarified the words of Hebrew scripture. His testimony rings out today as unique in all of history.

Help us to hear your testimony today Jesus. Open the ears of our hearts to hear, and listen to, what you are saying to us.

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

There is another who testifies on my behalf ...

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me. “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. -John 5:30-32 NRSV

The presence of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is so subtle. The workings of the Spirit seems different than in our lives. Probably because the connection is so strong in Christ. I love how Jesus describes this connection as one of hearing and doing. Hearing and judging. Of doing the will of the one who sent him.

Interesting that Jesus does not speak about how he has studied the scriptures and bases his judgment on what is written there. Perhaps in doing this he is giving his hearers an admonition to listen to the testimony of their heart rather than leaning on the understandings of their head? And maybe that is the testimony that is essential to be saved?

Help us Lord to hear the testimony that rings clear in our hearts.

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

The hour is ... now here ...

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. -John 5:24-29 NRSV

The question that pops int my mind as I read this passage is whether Jesus is speaking of a future resurrection of bodies in the grave or if he is speaking more to the spiritually dead who are standing in front of him. I tend to lean towards the latter as Jesus seems to indicate as much when he says that the hour is now here when these things will happen.

I love how Jesus speaks about having life in himself. In truth one cannot give what they do not have. He could not give life if he was not, as John later puts it, the way, the truth and the life. Also interesting how Jesus is given the authority to judge based on the idea that he is both Son of God and Man. Jesus truly understands what it is like to be human.

Help us Lord to discern the times and live the life that you have given us to the fullest.

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

But has passed from death to life ...

Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life. -John 5:21-24 NRSV

Jesus Christ is the life giver. In a later passage in John he speaks of giving followers an abundant life. Life is the issue. Not just a better life but a different life. A life transformed as we are born from above. An eternal life that survives our fleshly death. A life full of God. A life that experiences and gives a divine flavor of love.

In contrast much is written these days about judgment. Some even speculate about what the images in the book of Revelation mean. Some envision a judgment of believers in heaven. I love how Jesus says here that believers do "not come under judgment". It is a concept that may not agree with some theology but it is what Jesus said.

Thank you Lord Jesus Christ. You have given us life and rescued us from judgment.

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

Only what he sees the Father doing ...

Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. -John 5:19-20 NRSV

Isn't it interesting how Jesus responds to religious leaders who condemn him for healing on the Sabbath? He does not argue the fourth commandment, or some point of Mosaic Law, with them. In a sense, he sets himself above such dialog and asserts that his authority does not come from things written in the Law and the the Prophets but from heaven.

In this Jesus teaches us about our need to know, and be led by, the Holy Spirit. It is really not enough to know the scriptures with our heads. We must know the Word of God (i.e. Jesus) before we can understand the words of God. And in knowing Jesus we find a relationship based on his love fore us and his revelation of what he is doing to us.

Open our hearts Lord that we might believe and join you in all that you are doing around us.

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

My Father is still working ...

Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. -John 5:14-18 NRSV

Up to this time in history God had been known by many names but nothing as intimate as Father. The Jews took exception to Jesus calling God by this name because they felt that it made him equal to God. Yet Jesus did not seem to embrace a proprietary view when he taught us to pray "Our Father". I love this name because it reveals God's desire for an intimate relationship with each of us. Gone are the days of fear. Now is the time when we in a whisper cry out Daddy.

Don't you love how Jesus replies to those who would stop him from healing on the Sabbath? His words are indictment against the rules that Jewish leaders had imposed on those who followed them. This is true of anyone who follows Jesus. Our mission is not to follow words written by men but to discern what God himself is doing and follow him in it.

Teach us Father to rely more on you and not upon others. Help us to hear and follow the small voice that shouts within us.

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

It is not lawful ...

Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. -John 5:9-13 NRSV

A common theme in the gospel accounts is how Jesus incensed the religious leaders by healing people on the Sabbath. As I write this I can hardly believe what I am writing. Supposed followers of God who are more interested in following rules than seeing a man (who was sick for 38 years) healed? This is the dark conclusion of those who follow rules.

And yet there are still so many people in the world who prefer this sort of religion. Following the rules always seems to be the safe path to take. Until one day, like these religious leaders, you find yourself fighting the One who you purport to follow. It is a not so subtle warning for us when we choose to follow rules of the head rather than the ones of the heart.

Help us Lord to trust you and follow with all of your heart and not lean on religious rules.

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

I have no one ...

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. -John 5:2-9 NRSV

Does it not break your heart that this man suffered with an illness for thirty-eight years? Are you not moved by compassion when you hear of stories like this one? Like many today, this man was beat down and had no one to help him. Loneliness, the long struggle of waiting to be whole, consumed this man and so many who suffer with chronic illness.

The words "I have no one" should haunt us and cause compassion to rise within each of us. Would that our mission would be one of seeking out the lonely and those who have battling for so long all by themselves. Perhaps this is the sort of love that would make a difference? Maybe our friendship is the way lonely people would be made whole again.

Help us Lord to be a friend to those who suffer. Give us hearts to befriend the lonely and the unlovable. Amen.

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

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him ...

The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household. -John 4:49-53 NRSV

How do you think you would have reacted if Jesus refused to come back to minister to your dying son? Some would have gotten angry and lashed out. This father's reaction was to believe what Jesus spoke to him. I find this amazing. Yet in another sense convicting because I am not sure that my response would have been one of believing Jesus.

It is so easy to read a passage like this and not let it sink in. The official responded by trusting Jesus. And, in a sense, he was trusting the word of Jesus regardless the outcome. It speaks to me of my need to trust the Lord with all of my heart when I so want to lean on what my head is telling me. It also tells me that I need to leave healing with God.

Help me Lord to walk away from this moment of prayer and simply believe what you are speaking to me.

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

Sir, come down before my little boy dies.

Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” -John 4:46-49 NRSV

I can so understand the desperation in this man's voice. It reminds me of a day in March of 1990. My first wife Ellen had a heart attack and kidney failure at age 39 and she was in the intensive care unit at our neighborhood hospital. Things were tense in her room and she was not breathing strong enough to get oxygen to her extremities. As the doctors began to prep her for a ventilator I told them all that I wanted to pray first. They stopped what they were doing and I cried aloud an awkward prayer of desperation. I felt a presence come into the room. Her oxygen levels increased and a ventilator was not needed. I believe that God heard my desperate cry for help that day and helped Ellen.

I am desperate today Lord. My body is hurting and life is hard. I cry out to you for help.

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

In the prophet’s own country

When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival. -John 4:43-45 NRSV

Familiarity is something that many deal with. The word itself seems to have it's root in the word "family". It is said that "familiarity breeds contempt". It is sometimes difficult for some to honor a person who one has known all of their lives.

Consider Jacob's son Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. His brothers listened to Joseph speak of his dreams of leadership and nothing but contempt grew in their hearts. When they had enough they did a terrible thing.

Sometimes children raised in religious families develop a contempt for their religious environment, leaders and family. Children are very insightful and when they see a bit of hypocrisy they often react with a bit of contempt.

The sad thing about familiarity is how it cuts you off from faith. Familiarity with people and organizations can sometimes obscure God and skew our impressions of Him. And many times if takes an unfamiliar face to bring faith to the surface.

Lord, help me to be an unfamiliar and welcoming face for someone today.

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

We have heard for ourselves ...

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” -John 4:39-42 NRSV

In the late 1970s my wife Ellen and I frequently traveled and told groups our salvation story. Each of us told it from a different perspective. Ellen told of how she was blind for three years and how God touched and healed her in a church service. My story was more of how Ellen's changed life impacted me and brought me to the cross.

I love how different our stories were and yet how similar they were. We both experienced and witnessed the power of God in our lives. And like our gospel story today, I came to a point where my story was not so much about Ellen but about God and his Word working in my life. In the end we all must be confronted and changed by the living Word.

Lord, may we be like the woman at the well. May we burn with your message. May our lives point others to you.

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

Look around you ...

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” -John 4:34-38 NRSV

The words "look around you" speaks to me of our need to know those who are in our lives. When Jesus speaks of fields that "are ripe for harvesting" he is not speaking so much of giving an altar call but of touching lives the way that he touched them. He is saying: look at these with eyes of love and be moved by compassion to minister his grace.

That said, I love the idea of planting divine seeds into people's lives. Being patient with a frustrated cashier can be an instrument of grace. Speaking a word of encouragement to a hurting coworker can turn their hearts towards heaven. We really do not know how our lives will impact others when we are led by the Spirit and manifest His fruit.

Give us eyes to see and hearts to hear Lord. Fill us afresh with compassion that we might minister your grace.

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

My food is to do the will of him who sent me ...

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. -John 4:31-34 NRSV

The words of Christ in this passage speaks to me about the things that nourish and sustain us. I have experienced times of spiritual nourishment as I sat in pastoral counseling sessions. To see the transformation on a person's face in those meetings fed something deep inside of me. Seeing the woman at the well begin to receive the good news fed Jesus.

I think that most of us can relate to times when we felt this way. Sometimes just a simple act of kindness can fill our innermost being. It is like the Holy Spirit is training us to find nourishment in the things that he leads us to do. And yet, like the disciples, we sometimes focus all of our attention on temporal things when the eternal is so close.

Help us Lord to follow the your leading and find the food that satisfies forever.

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

I am he

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” ... Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. -John 4:25-26, 28-30 NRSV

I love how Jesus interacts with the woman at the well. Their conversation comes across as a blend of idle chatter and deep conversation. It seems that there was probably more to their talk than what is reported by John. He spoke to her not only about who she was but about who he is. And in a very rare occurrence Jesus tells her that he is the Messiah.

Many messianic figures have arisen in history. Some accompanied by great works. Even today men rise up and claim the mantle of prophet or messiah. Since ancient times men and women have looked forward to the coming of such people. Even politicians get labeled as messiahs. Yet no one in history has ever impacted lives like Jesus of Nazareth.

Come Holy Spirit. Come Lord Jesus Christ. Speak to us. Change us. That we might leave all and tell your story.

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

Worship in spirit and truth

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” -John 4:21-24 NRSV

Don't you love how Jesus tells the Samaritan that worship is not about where we worship but how we worship. Throughout history humans have always wanted to make worship about a place. About Jerusalem, Mecca or Rome. About a Temple, Mosque or Cathedral. About a Priest, Imam or Pastor. Jesus tells us that the place is not important.

So what does it mean to "worship in spirit and truth"? I think that it first acknowledges that God is a spirit that does not live in a place such as a Temple, Mosque or Cathedral. God is everywhere. No one can put God in a holy box. As such our worship must be reflected in everything we do and everyplace we go. It must be a reflection of the spirit that lives in us and be filled with truthful integrity. Our outside must match our inside when we worship the Lord.

Come Spirit of the Living God. Fill us. Renew us. Live in our daily praises and worship. Teach us to live.

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

I see that you are a prophet.

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
-John 4:15-20 NRSV

The conversation goes on. The woman at the well presses Jesus about this water he can give that will quench her thirst forever. Then it gets personal. Jesus begins to speak to her of what is going on in her life. She quickly changes the subject. His prophetic insight is a bit too much for her. She did not want to speak of the man she was living with.

It is so like us ... like me ... to change the subject when things get uncomfortable. It is so much easier to speak about theology when I really need to talk about my pain and my troubles. I think that Jesus wanted to talk to this woman about how hard and painful her life had been but she couldn't get there then. But God had other plans for her.

God, I love how you interact with us and do not allow us to stay in dark places. Thank you for loving us that much.

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

A spring of water gushing up ...

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” -John 4:10-15 NRSV

I love the message in this passage about how life is really about what is living inside and gushing out of us. It speaks to me about a life lived with passion and zeal. In another place Jesus spoke about how the abundance of the heart would spill out into our speech. The gospel message is that God comes and fills us with the living water of his Spirit.

Yet so often, like this woman of Samaria, we are more interested in waters that will quench our fleshly thirst. Ignorant of the water that gives us life we search for the experiences of waters that appeal to our earthly senses. In doing so we risk damming up the life of God that lives in our innermost being - the water that is able to satisfy our souls.

Teach us to release control Lord. Cause the living water to flow and touch those whom you love.

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

Living Water

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” -John 4:5-10 NRSV

Do you not love the way that a tired and thirsty Jesus begins a conversation with such an ordinary woman. If it were me I would not wanted to be bothered. I would have got the water myself. Yet later in the narrative Jesus gives us a peak into his actions when he tells his disciples that his nourishment came from doing the will and work of the Father.

I love how Jesus gives us the example of one filled with the life of God and how such inner life spills out to others. He tells the Samaritan woman, and I believe us as well, that the living water of heaven is available to anyone (of any nationality, gender or race) when we simply ask for it. And perhaps that is the message that the world needs the most.

We are thirsty Lord. Fill us today with your living water. Let a river of life flow from us.

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

He gives the Spirit without measure.

The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. -John 3:31-36 NRSV

To believe in Jesus is to believe in his teaching - to accept what he said as truth. John says here that when we do this we certify that God is true. Yet many in John's day did not accept the words of Christ but chose to believe the teachings of the Jewish leaders. And some simply rejected his message because they refused to pick up their cross.

Interesting how the passage speaks of the Son giving the Spirit without measure. I love the idea that this measureless Spirit lives in all who simply accept Jesus and the words that he spoke. When one believes in the Son they receive the gift of an eternal Spirit - they are born from above and will transcend death because their new heart cannot die.

Praise you Lord Jesus Christ for giving us the Spirit without measure.

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

The one who comes from above ...

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. -John 3:31 NRSV

John, the author of this gospel account, seems to pick up from where he left off in chapter one. He follows up the Baptist's assertion that he was not the Messiah by asserting that Jesus was the one who came from heaven. In these few words he reaffirms the idea of the virgin birth saying that Jesus was not from earth but from heaven.

A while back I asked a group of friends what it was that made Jesus special and different from all other teachers and prophets. I mean was it the resurrection that differentiated him? My view is what John writes here is what makes him unique in all of human history. The virgin birth, coming from heaven, makes him unique and above all others.

You are worthy Lord Jesus Christ. You are the one who has come from heaven. I worship you my Lord and God.

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

He must increase, but I must decrease.

“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” -John 3:27-30 NRSV

Until Jesus appeared, the spotlight shone solely on John the Baptist. Crowds from all over the area flocked to his ministry. Now his disciples have come to him and tell John that all are going to Jesus to be baptized. His answer is so heavenly and lacks any trace of jealousy or pride. His humility is an example for each of us who minister the gospel.

In these few words John teaches us how to respond when another's ministry is succeeding. He tells us to acknowledge their success as a gift from heaven and rejoice with them in it. To see ourselves as servants of God and friends of the one whose ministry is increasing. It takes a work of humility to see the ministry of Christ increase in another and decrease in us. Yet it is this very thing that brings unity. For both he who increases and he who decreases work for God.

Lord, help those who minister all over the world understand that you desire them to work in unison for Christ.

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

The light has come into the world ...

Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” -John 3:19-21 NRSV

I love the way that Jesus speaks about judgment in these few verses saying that it is like a light that shines in the darkness. The life, ministry and teachings of Christ shines a spotlight on all that is not of God. He shines a light on hate when he tells us to love and forgive those who hurt us. He shines on our self-centeredness when he tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross. An eternal floodlight glows as he hangs on the cross and suffers in our place.

Yet many turn their backs on the light and choose to live in the shadows. These rationalize their bad behavior and reject the invitations of the Holy Spirit to repent of deeds done in darkness. These are judged not because of their darkness but because they refuse to simply turn towards the light. Yet some turn. Some repent. Some love light more than darkness.

Come Holy Spirit. Help us to believe. Help us to reject darkness and to walk in the Light.

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

For God so loved the world ...

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. -John 3:16-18 NRSV

As one reads through the Old Testament it is clear to see that even the most spiritual of humans did not really understand who God is. It had to break God's heart to see himself portrayed as One who does not love. In the most famous verse in the bible Jesus, God himself, tells us why he came. It was not condemnation but love that caused him to come.

And he follows up this magnificent verse by telling of the importance of our reaction to his coming. He tells us that he came to save us and to free us from condemnation. When we believe in him we are born from above and freed of the guilt and shame that comes from sin. If we resist the Holy Spirit and refuse to believe we are left in our condemnation.

Lord, thank you for loving us so much that you came to set us free and show us the way.

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