spiritual intimacy

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.[John 5:19-21 ESV]
I think of an intimate unity when Jesus speaks of only doing what the Father is doing.
We see that intimacy reflected when he speaks of the love that he and the Father share.
Even in the confines of human flesh Jesus shows us an intimacy that he has with the Father.

In the gospels we see this intimate love poured out as Jesus is moved by compassion.
In this compassion we see the love of the Father and his purpose in doing greater works.
And I believe that those greater works of love and mercy continue yet today.

Whenever compassion and empathy rises up in us, the world sees a bit of that intimacy.
The lives of people like Teresa of Calcutta witness to such an intimacy with God.
In truth, there is no greater evidence of spiritual intimacy than love and care.

When we are intimate with God we see what he is doing and join with him in the work.
Spiritual gifts and fruit develop in us as we follow God in loving the world.
And intimacy grows as we mature in our relationship with Christ.

Help me to know you more intimately Lord. Help my life to testify of your love.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

our spiritual father

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. [John 5:18 ESV]

Many still today stumble over Jesus' claims of being the Son of God.
The claim seems to be a bit outrageous from a purely human point of view.
Before Jesus no one ever dared call God their father.

So, the reactions of the Jews were somewhat predictable.
Many religious people, even today, are angered when they hear someone call Jesus God.
The idea that God became human is a challenging thought for both Christians and others.

Even so, have you considered the possibility that God could become your spiritual father?
Have you thought about the idea that being born again is about fatherhood?
And that everlasting life means that you have a father for eternity?

This is the good news that Jesus and his disciples preached.
Greater than being saved and rescued from sin and death.
A glorious reality that transcends religion, dogma, theology and everything else.

Being born from above means that you have a new identity through a new father.

Our Father. May your kingdom come and your will be done in and through us.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

religious vs spiritual people

This issue keeps arising from the Jewish leaders. They do not appreciate the good things Jesus does on the Sabbath. Most Jews cower at the rebuke from these men, but Jesus does not. He is very clear about this. He cares for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized more than He cares for how some people may interpret and apply God’s law. It is easy to follow a set of rules; it is much harder to care for the things of the heart. He also makes it clear that those who follow His path are put on earth to serve. His followers’ service comes out of love for Him. All who follow Him are to love and to serve, especially on the Sabbath. [Commentary in John 5 on Jesus' conflicts with religious leaders. -VOICE]

A few comparisons of religious and spiritual leaders:
  • Appreciation vs Jealousy - for folks who minister differently
  • Bullying vs Inspiring - of people who follow them.
  • People vs Rules - loving people should supersede religious legalities.
  • Head vs Heart - who or what you serve is a matter of the heart.
  • Service vs Subservience - we are hear to serve those Jesus served and not leaders.
  • Love vs Ritual - we are most like Jesus when we serve.
  • Sabbath vs Life - every day is a sabbath when it comes to healing.
Lord help us to be a people who appreciate, inspire, love and serve.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

kingdom work

Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your bed and walk.” At once the man was healed and picked up his bed and walked. ... The Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Day of Rest. It is against the Law for you to carry your bed.” ... Because Jesus did these things on the Day of Rest, the Jews made it very hard for Him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is still working all the time so I am working also.” [John 5:8-17 NLV]

The context of the Jews' criticism of the man who has been healed blows me away!

This man has been paralyzed for 38 years! 38 long years!
Where were these self-righteous Jews when this man was suffering and struggling?
Where were they when he cried? Who among them lifted one finger to help him in his suffering?

Such is the demeanor and attitude of many religious people even today.
Such folks tend to focus on legalities rather than spiritual things.
How is it that anyone would not rejoice with a healed man who suffered for so long?

These same folks persecuted Jesus because he broke their rules by helping hurting people.
These religious folks felt totally justified in their criticism because their theology.
They preferred to cling to a caustic doctrine rather than encourage people involved in God's work.

Here is the question that I think must be asked of all religion:
Does it help or hinder the work of God on planet earth?
Jesus speaks directly to this and proclaims that God is working all of the time.
He indicates that the healing of people like this man is an evidence of God at work.
In saying this he invites all who will to join God in helping hurting people.

Help me Lord to not hide behind my doctrine when I see hurting people.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

the loneliness of suffering

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 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 going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. [John 5:2-9 ESV]

I have to come clean and say that this question of wanting to be healed troubles me.
I experience intense arthritic pain at times - ankle surgery awaits me.
My first wife died of diabetic complications and Ann suffers from a paralyzing neurological disease.

I pray all of the time - I want to be healed and I want Ann to be healed.
So I find that my heart has to come to grips with Jesus' question.
And I am sometimes challenged to not take offense when this question comes up.

I begin by saying that Jesus knew that the man wanted to be healed.
And he knew that it was the Father's will for him to be healed.
His question is puzzling yet the man's response is quite revealing.

Do you find it interesting that the man never really answered Jesus' question?
The expectation is that the man would have shouted "YES! I want to be healed"
But instead he says that he has no one to help him in his quest for healing.

Can you feel the pain and the loneliness that this man is experiencing?
Does compassion rise up in you when you think about his paralysis?
Where do you think his friends and family were these past 38 years?

I love that Jesus walked into this man's loneliness, pain and suffering.
The man was sick for almost forty years and wanted, dare I say prayed, to be healed.
Yet healing did not come until Jesus arrived on the scene.

It is an object lesson for us about our need to help those who are helpless.
Would it be that people like this man are befriended by people like us.
How great it would be if those in pain did not have to suffer alone.

Help us dear Holy Spirit. May no one ever have to suffer alone.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

exercising trust in a crisis

The official pled, “Sir, please come now before my child dies.” Then Jesus told him, “Go back home. Your son is healed!” And the man believed Jesus and started home. While he was on his way, some of his servants met him with the news that all was well—his son had recovered. [John 4:49-51 MSG]

The dialog between Jesus and the official seems a bit strange.
The man comes pleading to him about a son who is very sick.
At first blush, Jesus comes off as a bit uncaring.

To the naked eye it would seem that the Lord was dispassionate about the man's son.
He refused to come with the father but seemed to brush him off with a few words.
One observing the interaction might have a different perspective than we have today.

I think that is one of the messages in this story for us today.
Things are not always as they appear to us in our moment of crisis or pain.
God is at work even when things seem out of control.

The official could have doubted Jesus' sincerity and demand that he come with him.
He could have insisted that he have it his way and continue to beg Jesus.
Instead he gave up control and chose to trust what Jesus told him to be true.

Such is our challenge in every day life when "bad things" happen.
We can insist in prayer that we have it "our way" or we can trust in the Lord.
We can believe that God is at work even when there is no evidence to prove it.

Lord, help me to remember this lesson and trust you when crisis and pain comes.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

spiritual food

Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” ... Then Jesus explained: My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. [John 4:32-35 NLT]

I can relate to doing things that quench my spiritual hunger.
In times like that it seems that I forget about my physical needs all together.
As if something spiritual transcends that which is natural.

There is just something other-worldly about engaging in work that you are made to do.
And unless you read something different, I am not speaking of religious work or activities.
The work I am writing about elates me spiritually and is totally relational.

God's work is all about the relational stuff.
When we lovingly interact with people we are doing the work of the kingdom.
Apart from love all ministry is void of anything spiritual.

Consider what Jesus says to his disciples about the harvesting of souls.
Does anyone believe that a soul can be won for the kingdom without love?
When I consider the ways that Jesus ministered I see love personified.

I am brought to an understanding that kingdom work is all about compassion.
Those who are hurting, lost and in pain need love and compassion.
Who among us ever came to the Savior for any reason other than someone loved us.

The work of the harvest fills us with spiritual food.
Our witness is all about the work of love in our lives.
Love is the spiritual food that each of us so desperately need.

Help me to love those who you love Lord. Please give me a heart of compassion.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.