“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” John 12:42-43 ESV
The Pharisees had it out for Jesus. He was a threat to their power and their long list of rules they enforced. They looked continually for a way to arrest Him so they could put Him to death.
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the Pharisees wanted to kill him too. The crowds were increasingly turning to Jesus, worshipping Him and believing in Him. This increased the resolve of the Pharisees that Jesus must die.
Not only the crowds believed, the authorities began to believe as well. However, these authorities that believed did not openly confess that they believed. They were afraid of the Pharisees and they “loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” Simply put, they loved their ways above God’s.
I have lived my life at times as the authorities of Jesus time did. I have seen Him do miraculous things in the lives of those around me and could not help but believe that Jesus did them. Yet, I wanted my way above His. So I held back on confessing what I knew to be true. As I’ve often said, “I like to be liked.” Sometimes openly confessing the truth of Jesus and obeying Him fully makes those around us uncomfortable, even angry. So the easier path is to love our own ways above the ways of Jesus and not say the truth. Jesus tells us in verses 25-26:
“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
May we love Jesus wholeheartedly and serve Him first not cower in fear as the authorities did! Jesus’ way above our own! That is the only way to live life to the fullest!
At the height of the struggle I had with anxiety, verses 4-5 spoke to me.
“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”” John 10:3-5 ESV
Anxiety, among many other voices, cry out for our attention, but Jesus assures us that as His sheep we know HIS voice! If we really stop and listen, we can hear that voice. All the other voices shouting at us for His attention are only thieves and strangers. We as His sheep follow His voice alone.
Do not be distracted by all the shouting of lies in your ears! The truth is, when you are in Jesus, you know His voice. If you listen, you will hear it. Follow that voice! It leads to the one who tenderly cares for all our needs, our Good Shepherd.
In today’s reading Jesus heals a man born blind on the Sabbath. Once again the religious leaders of Jesus time, the Pharisees wanted to discredit Jesus because He continued to challenge their man made traditions and threatened their power. They attacked the testimony of the man who was born blind by saying he was “born in utter sin.” They also claimed that Jesus was a sinner.
Jesus makes a statement in the midst of all this.
“Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”” John 9:39 ESV
The Pharisees thought they had the corner on the knowledge of God. They had studied the scripture, they thought they had God all figured out, but their hearts were far from Him. They were proud. They were spiritually blind.
The blind man was desperate. When he encountered Jesus, he obeyed His command. He received healing to his eyes. When he finally saw Jesus after being healed and spoke to Him, he “believed and worshipped.” In humility the man born blind believed Jesus and he was made whole both physically and spiritually.
We have the same choice. We may choose to do our own thing, following our own ways, the things that seem right to us, and we will die spiritually blind— never truly seeing Jesus! Or we may choose to obey Jesus no matter what and live our lives seeing His beauty and splendor!
Either way we must choose! May we choose to see Jesus for who He is—Lord, and believe!
In today’s reading, there is the account of Jesus forgiving the woman who was caught in adultery. After finding herself with no one to condemn her, Jesus tells her He does not condemn her either. Before she goes, Jesus says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
““No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”” John 8:11 NIV
Jesus then speaks to the Pharisees. He tells them the truth about the condition of their relationship to God. They were claiming that God was their Father. This is where Jesus says something profound:
“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.” John 8:42 NIV
In our day and time it is a popular thing to say that we are all God’s children. Jesus narrows down who is truly a child of God, the one who can call God, Father. It is the one who loves Jesus. To define this even better we must know what it is to love Jesus. In John 14:15 Jesus defines who loves him even further. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Or simply said we will OBEY God’s word. One of the commandments Jesus gave is to “go and leave our life of sin.”
It is true our Heavenly Father loves us and longs for us to know Him, but we cannot experience the freedom of His forgiveness and simply go our own way once again. To truly be His child means a transformation within or being born again. This transformation will lead us to love our Heavenly Father giving evidence of our love for Him by our obedience.
When faced with Jesus people have so many reactions. This chapter illustrates them so well. Jesus’ half brothers found it hard to believe that Jesus was more than a man. They wanted Him to prove Himself. The religious leaders, who thought they had God all figured out, thought Jesus was a threat to the power they exercised over themselves and others. Others thought He was crazy, demon possessed. Some were curious. Others were offended. Some didn’t know what to do with Him. We are much like that today. People hear of Jesus and struggle to put Him in a convenient Box within their minds that could explain Him away. So they are conflicted as the people of Jesus time.
Verse 46 gives us the response of a temple guard that I think sums up the point where a person begins to see Jesus for who He is and accept Him as who He longs to be in our lives, Lord God.
When asked why the guard did not arrest Jesus. The guard said, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.”
When Jesus speaks to us, His voice is different than all the others around. When we truly hear Him, He is like no other. His word in our heart changes us. It causes us to see He isn’t all the things we thought He might be. He is God and He is Love and He is Lord. May we hear Him speak and recognize that no one speaks like Jesus does. His word is power and it changes our hearts!
I love taking the month of December and focusing on the most blessed event of human history, Jesus’ Birth and reading Luke. All the warmth and tenderness of the moment in the Bethlehem stable has been remembered over and over as we have focused on all the details surrounding His arrival and shortly after. Then there have been each account of all the miracles Jesus performed while here walking the earth, and the truth He spoke in all the parables, as we have been reading a chapter a day.
With each miracle and each word, we have read how He was being closely watched by a group who wanted for Him to go away- to kill Him. Today’s reading includes a parable Jesus told to expose the hearts of those people. The parable of the evil farmers, tenants who wanted nothing to do with the landowner. The landowner tried desperately to receive some fruit from the vineyard He had planted. His tenants beat the servants the landowner had sent to communicate with them. Finally the landowner appealed to them by sending his son, who he loved. These tenants threw the son out of the vineyard and killed him. Jesus finished this parable with the words,”The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (Verse 17)
With all that Jesus did that was good, kind, and miraculous, He was still rejected. But the very person they rejected, Jesus, was the person that God had sent to save.
We also have a choice when faced with the person Jesus. We can accept Him and His lordship over our lives, or we can reject Him. May we examine our hearts this Christmas season. As we celebrate the tenderness of our God who has come to us as a baby to be with us, Jesus- Emmanuel, may we not reject His desire to become God within us. He longs to do good and to fill our lives with Himself. May our hearts be opened to receive Him!
There are no neutral encounters with Jesus. Everyone who comes in contact with Him will be faced with a decision.
Today’s chapter records the account of a rich ruler who came to Jesus asking the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Verse 18) Jesus’ reply was a mirror reflecting what was really in this man’s heart: “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”” (Verse 22)
This man had done all the rituals required by the law. He had obeyed all the commandments since he was a child. But one thing was more important to him than following God with all he heart, His wealth.
In our hearts there is room for only one King, Jesus. When we come to Him, we are faced with a choice— our way or His. This choice is not so we have more rules and regulations to follow. His way is the only way we can experience His heavenly treasures. (Verse 22) His way is the only way we can experience Him. His way is only and always perfect.
As we have reflected each day this month on the Christmas story we see this truth as well. Each and every detail of Jesus’ birth fulfilled prophecies of times long before and the obedience of each person who God used in the story brought about the most important event of history, Jesus our Heavenly King coming to us.
The obedience displayed in Mary’s words in Luke 1:38 at the announcement that she would be the mother of Jesus reflected a heart obedient to God. “I am the Lord’s servant…may your word to me be fulfilled.” This word the Angel proclaimed had a price. It would cost her her reputation, her plans, her way. Yet she obeyed and she participated in God’s awesome plan!
The rich ruler had an opportunity as well, but he left Jesus’ presence with sadness. Because in His encounter with Jesus, the man chose to not “love the Lord His God (Jesus) with all His heart, with all his soul and all his strength.” The young ruler loved his ways more than Jesus’.
We also face our own personal encounter with Jesus. We have a choice that has no neutrality. Will we follow His way or ours? May our response be as Mary responded to the Angel months before the first Christmas. “I am the Lord’s servant… may your word to me be fulfilled.”
The setting in today’s chapter is a meal at the house of a prominent Pharisee, a religious leader of Jesus time. Jesus sat and watched as the guest came in looking for seating in prominent places. They wanted recognition and positions of power with the affluent in the room. It is at this point Jesus tells a parable about a “Great Feast, “ a feast much like the kingdom of God.
A man sent out invitations to a great feast he was giving, but everyone he asked had excuses for why they could not come. So the man told his servant to go and invite the “rejects”, “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” (Verse 21) He also instructs the servant to go “to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in…” (verse 23) The man throwing the feast wanted his house to be full. Our loving Heavenly Father is like this man. The invitation to His Heavenly banquet was sent years ago, on a dark night, in a Bethlehem Stable. Jesus came inviting the ones rejected- the poor in spirit; those crippled by fear and pain; those blinded by sin; those lame, unable to stand in His presence. He calls to the “roads and country lanes” ,the out of the way, lonely places, “Come!” He longs for His house to be full!
For this I am so grateful. I am all of the people Jesus invited- I am the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. I am the one who could not come to the banquet had it not been for Jesus inviting sinners to come!
The first Christmas shows us a glimpse of the God who would go to great lengths to see His house full of guests delighted and fulfilled at His banquet. Our God came to be His invitation, with us- Emmanuel. He prepared the way for us to the banquet by His sacrificially dying on the cross, and victoriously rising from the grave. May we hear the invitation declared to us so many years ago at His birth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” Luke 2:14. His favor is upon us! His invitation has been sent! May we drop any excuse for not attending His feast and RSVP with Him replying “Yes! I come!”
Today’s reading is Luke chapter 6. Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus- His coming to us, is described this way in John’s gospel: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) The scene is set in today’s chapter. A large crowd had come: to hear, to be healed, to be set free from evil spirits. Power came out from Jesus as people tried to be able to just touch Him. Then He speaks. “The Word”, Jesus, who had come from God speaks words of hope to the crowd of poor, hungry, sorrowful, and hated. Jesus, the Word, spoke blessings, spiritual happiness and the favor of God, “Blessed.” His words confirmed what the angels spoke to the shepherds at His birth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and in earth peace to those on whom his favor (delight, kindness) rests.” Jesus described His Father as “kind to the ungrateful and wicked”(vrs35), “merciful”(vrs36), and “giving” (vrs37). All the crowd needed to do was to truly HEAR the Word, Jesus, speak, take Him into their heart, and live a life constantly listening to Him and obeying. They would then live a life unshakable when life’s storms came to them (vrs48). Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is still declaring blessings and favor over us. All we must do is truly listen to the Word, Jesus, as He speaks, and Obey! We will find, just as the crowds did so many years ago that as we listen and reach out for Him hoping to touch Him we will experience His power in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Healing from our dis ease, freedom from the oppression of the evil one, are there as we “come” for He has come to us! First as a baby, then as a sacrifice on the cross, now as a risen Savior!
I went to college at Mizzou. That seems like the appropriate thing to do for a Missouri Girl. Back in the 80’s MU was known as a party campus to the kids in my high school. As a young lover of Jesus, my motivation to go there was definitely not to party, I wanted to be a light and witness to my generation.
One thing I loved about the campus at Mizzou was the A.P. Green Chapel, next to Memorial Union. It was like a small candle flickering light on a campus with so much darkness in it. I would go there frequently to pray and read my Bible. It was in that chapel during one of my times of prayer that I wrote this poem.
Let me see the world as You see it. With the compassion of the Cross That's a heart of Love that breaks For the dying of the lost. Let me cry as You cried and Break me as You were broke Make my heart like Your heart And let me wear Your yoke.
Let me be as You are Full of love and kind, Gentle and compassionate, Sweet as the New Wine.
Let me see the world as You see it, Through the eyes of the cross. Willing to give my all for You So others won't be lost. (originally written January 21,1990)
This morning as I started my time in prayer memories of that chapel and a young, wholly devoted heart that I had started to flow through my mind. I know that at that time if God would have told me to pack up my bags and head to the corners of the earth, I would have. I wanted to do whatever He wanted no matter what the cost. Over 30 years have went by since I sat in that chapel writing those words. I’ve had my times of living a life for God that I felt like I was red hot on fire and then lukewarm since then. I have often wondered If I heard God say, ” Pack up everything and go,” would I be willing to obey like my younger heart would have? Then I thought of the poem above that my younger heart wrote during a time of prayer.
Things haven’t really changed much since that day. The world I live in is still dark and full of death and destruction. Just this week two shootings have occurred in my country for no real reason except evil in the hearts of mankind. However, I know the remedy, Jesus. It seems like all that I can do is like a tiny band aid on a gaping wound.
In Isaiah 6 the prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord. His way of going about life was wrecked by what He saw. He saw a God who was so holy, glorious, and awesome in power, that all he could think of is how sinfully human he was. But he also heard the voice of God asking, “Who will go for Us?” Sitting there realizing how unqualified he was he replied, “Here am I. Send me!” Sitting in the presence of Jesus has that effect on a person. Seeing what Isaiah saw, a God who is so much bigger than us and yet so loving and so kind, I also can hear His voice calling to me. “Who will go for Us?” Although I have no idea what that will mean for me, may my heart say as Isaiah’s did, “Here am I. Send me!”
As it usually does during my times of contemplation, I come across a song that stirs within me. The lyrics of this song are so powerful. May it be my prayer. May it be the prayer of all of us.
God has given us so much to be thankful for this season. Let us purpose in our hearts to not only give thanks, but give ourselves to Him fully! Taking the remedy to our brokenness to the world around us! Come Lord Jesus!