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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Travel Light

Travel Light

Scripture tells us that a rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered him by telling him to keep the commandments. The rich young man replied that he had kept the commandments since his childhood. Then Jesus made this surprising statement: “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow Me.” ( Luke 18:22)

When Jesus told him to give all of his money to the poor, the rich young ruler went away disappointed and sad. He wasn’t willing to give up his fortune for Jesus because “he was a man of great wealth.” ( Luke 18:23)

What was Jesus saying to this rich ruler and what lesson can we learn from this story? Jesus was not saying that salvation is gained through good works. Scripture never tells us that. Salvation is a gift from God and cannot be gained by our good works or bought with our money. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Jesus spent time with other wealthy people during His earthly ministry and He never told any of the others who had property and earthly goods that they had to give away all of their money to inherit the kingdom.

Jesus could see into this rich young man’s heart and He must have seen that this young ruler wanted to remain in control of his life. He had it all and he loved being wealthy and important. He received comfort and security from his fortune. His reputation and status were built on his wealth. Of course he couldn’t give all of that up to follow the Lord! He couldn’t put Jesus first when his wealth came first. What was Jesus thinking?

But Jesus wasn’t giving this rich man an unusual command. God wanted the young ruler to surrender his life to Him and God wants us to surrender our lives to Him also. We read this same message over and over again in Scripture. God wants us to give up control of our lives to Him. God wanted to be the rich young ruler’s first love and He wants to be our first love too. He won’t take second place.

The first commandment of the Ten Commandments is: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). You see, God wants it all. He wants all of your heart, not just a little bit. Scripture tells us that: “No one can serve two masters, either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) God wanted to be first in the rich young ruler’s life and He wants to be first in ours too. God wants us to love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and He doesn’t want anything else to get in the way. (Matthew 22:27)

You may be thinking that you don’t have a problem because you aren’t wealthy. You may not have a lot of money that can stand between you and God like the rich young ruler had. But money isn’t the only thing that can keep us from completely surrendering our lives to God. Our jobs or our ambitions can become more important to us than God. Our reputations or the control we have over other people can so easily take over our lives and push God out.

As we grow older we can sometimes add more baggage on the journey and it’s harder to follow the Lord as we struggle on under the added weight. God loves us and He knows that we aren’t strong enough to carry these burdens. He asks us to give them all to Him to carry. There are narrow spaces on the way and we can’t fit through them if we are full of ourselves with all of our extra baggage. We can only follow Him when we travel light. We need to learn to lose it. “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 11:38)

Perhaps our life hasn’t turned out the way we think it should have. We didn’t get the job promotion we should have gotten. Our friends and family don’t give us the recognition that we know they should. Our children have messed up their lives even though we trained them to do better. It’s hard to forgive when all of these people have let us down.

And then the Lord speaks to us and tells us the same thing He told the rich young ruler. He tells us to give it all up and come and follow Him. Maybe it’s not money that He is asking us to surrender. But perhaps it’s our reputation, or our need to be right, or our pride and our status. We need to give all of these things to Him. They are too heavy for us to carry. We can’t forgive the folks who have hurt us and we can’t surrender completely to Him when we keep holding onto to these things. They get in the way and drag us down. He’s is calling to us to lay these things at His feet and travel light.

Friday, November 19, 2010

One Way - Jesus

One Way --Jesus

Jesus said: “I Am the Way…No One Can Come to the Father but Through Me”

John 14:6

John 14:1-12—Jesus is speaking to His disciples:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in Me. There are many rooms in My Father’s house: If there were not, I would have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you. And after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with Me; so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said,

“Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus said:

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, you know my Father also. From this moment you know Him and have seen Him.”

Philip said,

“Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.”

Jesus replied:

“Have I been with you all this time, Philip and you still do not know Me? To have seen Me is to have seen the Father, so how can you say, ‘Let us see the Father.’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?

The words I say to you I do not speak as from Myself: it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing this work. You must believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me: believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.

I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in Me will perform the same works as I do Myself, he will perform even greater works.”

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We will not be able to publish a devotion next week, however we will continue our weekly posts on November 21st. 

Jesus - The Bread of Life Journeying through John

Jesus, The Bread of Life (John 4:46-7:37)

Journeying through John

The gospel of John was written that we might believe. (John 20:31) This book follows Jesus through His life. Since John was right there with Jesus, he describes His healings and records His teachings. As we continue on in John we read that Jesus healed a nobleman’s son. The boy was dying in Capernaum and the father was desperate when he traveled to Cana to find Jesus. Jesus spoke the word and the boy was instantly healed. (John4:46-54)

Next Jesus went to Jerusalem and healed a man at the pool of Bethesda. This man had been crippled and sick for thirty-eight years, and with one word Jesus healed him instantly. Then Jesus told him to take up his bed and walk home.

All of this happened on the Sabbath, and the man who was healed got in trouble as he walked home carrying his bed. The religious Jews saw him and accused him of breaking the law by carrying a load on the Sabbath. They demanded to know who had healed him so that they could prosecute the offender.

Instead of rejoicing that this crippled man had been miraculously healed, these religious leaders were angry that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath and broken their Sabbath laws. The Messiah had come and He was threatening the religious control and authority they held over the people. These legalistic Jews had given their lives to their religious establishment and now Jesus was upsetting it. And to make matters worse, Jesus had become immensely popular with the people and large crowds were following Him everywhere He went. What could they do to stop Him?

Jesus continued his ministry and thousands of people followed after Him because of His teachings and healings. At one point Jesus fed five thousand men and all of the women and children that were with them. A little boy had given Jesus his lunch of five barley loaves and two fish and Jesus had used this little boys’ gift to feed these thousands of hungry people. Can Jesus multiply the small gifts we bring Him and use them for great purposes also?

After Jesus fed the more than five thousand He later preached to the crowds and told them that He is the bread of life. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) Jesus continued: “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever: and the bread that I shall give is My flesh which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:50-51) “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” (John 6:53-58)

Jesus has identified Himself as the bread of life. He is life and He imparts life to those who come to Him and who believe on Him. The flesh of Jesus, His actual corporeal existence, was to be given for the life of the world. This teaching that He gave pointed to the cross. Jesus is speaking of the Eucharist or communion when He speaks these words to His many followers. When we take the communion bread and wine, we are taking the body of Christ which was broken for us and the blood of Christ which was shed for us. Christ communicates life to those who feed on Him and will bestow on them immortality.

Scripture tells us: “From this time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” ( John 6:66) Why did these many followers of Jesus turn away so quickly when they didn’t understand one of His teachings? Couldn’t they have asked Jesus to explain, or wait awhile and trust Him with whatever the meaning might be? Had their faith been superficial and pseudo? The crowds loved Jesus when He healed their sick or miraculously fed them. They ran after Him when they thought He might become their new political leader and free them from the hated Roman rule. But they turned away from Him when He gave His teaching about his followers needing to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Was He asking them to become a part of Him, to lose themselves in Him? Many who heard these words of Jesus weren’t sure what He meant and they weren’t willing to stay around and find out. They had wanted to get something out of Him but not if they had to give their hearts to Him.

The religious leaders became more and more upset as Jesus’ ministry continued. They plotted to kill Him when they heard Him refer to Himself as coming from God. The Pharisees believed that Jesus had committed the sin of blasphemy by teaching that He was the Son of God. At one point Jesus said: “…but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.” And “…I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.” (John 7:18b and John 7:28b-29) These words drove the religious Jews crazy! They considered Him dangerous and purposed to have Him arrested and get Him out of the way.

Those who hated Jesus insisted that His teachings were false and not from God. But his followers believed that His teachings were from God. There was a division back then as the excited crowds followed Him and the angry leaders planned His demise.

Jesus spoke and said: “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:17) It seems that Jesus is telling us here that if we determine to obey the Lord and align our will with His will, we will receive understanding of His Word, and know the truth. Obeying God frees up the Holy Spirit to teach us.

Jesus was a lightening rod back then and He is still a lightening rod today. He divides people. In Scripture there are either sheep or goats at the judgment. A person either accepts Jesus as Lord or rejects Him. We believe in Him and receive eternal life or we refuse to let Him change us. It’s as simple as that. Each of us has a choice. What do we do with Jesus? What will it be?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ask for the Living Water Journeying Through John -John 3:22-4:45

Ask for the Living Water John 3:22-4:45

Journeying Through John

John tells us that his gospel was written so that “…you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) So the book of John is written so that we might believe and that our faith in Jesus might be made stronger.

The book of John describes many of the people who met Jesus and were changed by Him. John the Baptist was one of these people. John the Baptist’s mission in life was to point people to Jesus. He is quoted as saying: “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life: and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:35-36)

John the Baptist went through the countryside with his disciples teaching and baptizing, with large crowds following him. Jesus also went about the same countryside teaching and healing. At one point John the Baptists’ disciples came to him complaining that many of the people were leaving his ministry and flocking to Jesus. (John 3:26) Perhaps his disciples were jealous that Jesus’ ministry had taken away from theirs.

John the Baptist quickly reminds his disciples that Jesus is the Christ and their job is to send people to Him. “Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled, ” he says. John the Baptist was a humble man and he tells them: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29b-30)

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” How many of us could say this along with John the Baptist? How many of us want Jesus to be more important in our lives and our own reputations and our personal agendas less important? Scripture tells us that no one is greater in the kingdom than John the Baptist. (Matthew 11:11) I believe that one of the reasons he is given this honor is because he wanted Jesus to take over and receive all the glory while he would fall back. He was humble and we also need to learn to be humble.

John continues on in chapter four describing the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well and becomes a believer. It happened as Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria. The group comes to the town of Sycar and Jesus sits down by the ancient well outside the city. The well had been dug many centuries ago by Jacob and was called “Jacob’s well”.

A Samaritan woman comes to the well to draw water and Jesus asks her to give Him a drink. The woman is surprised that Jesus is speaking to her and asks Jesus why He is asking her for a drink. In that culture it was improper for a man to speak to a woman in public. According to the purification laws, Jesus would be profaning Himself just by taking water from the woman. And also at that time the Jews didn’t have anything to do with Samaritans.

But of course Jesus is Lord and He breaks all of the norms. Jesus answers her: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

The Samaritan woman thinks that Jesus is talking about the water in the well and asks if Jesus is greater than their ancestor Jacob who dug the well. And Jesus answers her: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14)

The Samaritan woman is now very interested but still confused. She doesn’t know what Jesus means by this “living water”. So Jesus tells her that she has had five husbands and that the man she is living with at the present time isn’t her husband. The woman is amazed that Jesus knows so much about her life and she recognizes that Jesus is a prophet, a man of God.

They continue talking and finally the Samaritan woman mentions that someday the Messiah will come. At that point Jesus says to her, “I who speak to you am He.” (John 4:26)

The Jews and the Samaritans were looking for a Messiah. A Savior had been promised throughout Old Testament Scriptures and the faithful were waiting. So when Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He was the Messiah, the first thing she wanted to do was to share Him with her relatives and neighbors. Overcome with excitement, the woman left her water pots at the well and rushed back to share this amazing news with her whole town. She ran from door to door breathlessly telling everyone she saw that she thought she had found the Christ! Her enthusiasm succeeded in influencing her townspeople. A large number of them ran out to the well to find Jesus and checkout for themselves if He really was the Messiah.

And they were not disappointed. John tells us that many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus and urged Him to stay with them and teach them more. Jesus agreed and stayed two more days and “many more believed because of His own word.” (John 4:41) These Samaritan said, “…we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42b)

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He was the Christ and that He would give her the living water so that she would never thirst again. Scripture says that Jesus baptizes us with His Holy Spirit, which is the living water. The Holy Spirit gives us the victory over sin. He gives us His righteousness. The Holy Spirit blesses us and teaches us and leads us in the way we should go. We never thirst again because when we have Jesus we have everything we need or want. We’ve got it all. He is the living water!

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the water that He gives her “will become a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14) The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, faith, hope, goodness, longsuffering, gentleness and meekness. (Galatians 5:22-23) Love, joy and peace will bubble up in your soul when you believe in Jesus. There will be a river of life flowing out of you!

The living water brings salvation and salvation belongs to Jesus alone. The Spirit flows into us and re-creates us into His image. We become the children of God. The water springs up eternally in us from the well that never runs dry. Jesus said: “Whoever believes in Me, rivers of living water will flow from him.” (John 7:38)

Jesus was welcomed and received by the Samaritans who were considered impure and undeserving by the religious Jews. Many Samaritans believed in Jesus and received His gift of the living water. But most of the religious Jews from Jesus’ home town and His country, the ones that should have recognized their Messiah, rejected Him and never knew what they were missing. Jesus said: “A prophet has no honor in his own country.” (John 4:44b) Why did this happen? What lessons can we learn from this? How can we not make this same mistake?

It is easier to hear our Lords’ call when we keep a humble spirit and when we don’t think of ourselves as better than others. Pride comes before a fall. Rebellion and disobedience can also keep us from recognizing our Lord and thirsting for His living water. Jesus will come to each one of us desiring to impart His gift of living water. But we need to believe and be open to Him. May our souls thirst for His living water. May our lives overflow with the rivers of life.