John 11:38-57

There have been various times when I read the Bible that I want to ask how some people walked with Jesus but failed to believe. In John 11 we find one of these occasions. Jesus performs what might be considered his greatest miracle–He raises Lazarus from the dead. Surely raising the dead would prompt everyone to follow Him. How could someone not follow someone so powerful? However, the reactions to this miracle varied. Verses 45-47 read this way…

“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.””

Yes many believed, BUT some went away asking “What are we to do?”  We think the answer is obvious. They should believe. Yet their question wasn’t so much about whether they believed in Jesus’ power, it was really a question of whether they were going to follow Him with their lives. If we read verse 48, we really get to the heart of the matter…

“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.

The heart of the matter for these religious leaders was they were afraid of losing their power. They had actually been given a measure of authority by the Romans, and the Jews looked to them for spiritual guidance ,so they were enjoying a huge amount of power and control. Jesus was a threat to all that. Jews were looking to Jesus now for spiritual guidance. The Romans were concerned about Jesus leading a rebellion as he was being looked to as the Savior of the Jews, a King of the Jews so to speak, so they would have to crack down on this Jewish rebellion. Therefore, these spiritual leaders not only did not want to follow Jesus, but they were looking for ways to get rid of him. This might appall us, but don’t we do the same many days in our lives? When we know we should not only believe in Jesus but give him control we try to find ways to ignore his teachings. Remember what we are told in Matthew 16…

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.””

Before you get too critical of those who walked with Jesus who refused to believe and follow Him, take an account of your own life and ask “are there areas of my life where I too am failing to believe and follow Jesus because I want to be in control?” If you are like me, you will clearly be able to identify ways in which you too fail to believe Jesus and follow him. If you can identify any area of your life today where you are failing to follow Jesus, trust that area of your life to Him and follow Him. You will not regret losing your power in order to experience the power of Jesus in your life.

Joshua 3 & 4

Transitions! No one, if honest, really likes transitions. Even the ones that we know are necessary. We don’t like them because we get comfortable in a routine and we would prefer that routine not change. It is interesting as I write this devotion that I and the church are in a transition. (I’m assuming most of you know that and what is interesting is that this devotion was on the schedule well before we knew a transition was coming.). Because of the coming transition some may be a little nervous. Some of our church members may be concerned that they will not like the next pastor or concerned that the future is uncertain. In Joshua 3 & 4 the people of Israel are in the midst of their transition. Moses has stepped aside as the leader and Joshua has taken over. Will the people like him? Will he do a good job? What will the future hold under his leadership? God answers those questions as the people get ready to cross the Jordan River. Listen first what God says to Joshua…

Joshua 3:7 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.

God first reassures Joshua. He tells Joshua that He will exalt him so that the people would know that God was with them. This promise is followed by God parting the waters of the Jordan River so that the people could cross on dry land. Sound familiar? It should because what is happening is the same God is at work. The leader may have changed but God had not. In fact, after we see the people cross over Jordan this is what we read…

Joshua 4:14 On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.

The people discovered that day that just because a transition occurs does not mean that God is finished or that God has changed. He is the same and may work in different people at different times, but his plan is always accomplished. In fact, if we are not careful we can be guilty of putting too much emphasis on Moses or Joshua or any earthly leader when the true focus should be on God. We see this truth in the very last verse of chapter 4. In that verse, we are clearly reminded that there was a reason for all that happened. Yes, God exalted Joshua in what happened at the Jordan, but Joshua’s exaltation was not the main goal. The main goal of all that happened was…

Joshua 4:24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.

Keeping this in mind, let’s move forward believing that in our times of transitions that God is still at work so that we focus on Him and recognize his mighty hand at work. God has not changed and God is not done working. So, as long as we look to him, we can still see God do great things.

John 20

When Kim and I visited the Grand Canyon a few years ago, it was an amazing experience. I had seen many pictures of the Grand Canyon before. I had even heard others talk about it. However, there is just something breathtaking about seeing it for yourself. The moment you stand at the edge peering over there is something that just becomes “real.” Your thoughts about the Grand Canyon are never the same no matter what you had experienced before.

In John 20, we see various people have a moment when Jesus becomes real to them. Before their experiences in John 20 they had spent time with Jesus. They heard Jesus tell them about what was to come. However, before the events of John 20, the fullness of Jesus was unknown to them. But after the resurrection and their experiences with the resurrected Jesus, everything changed. Keep in mind that each person in John 20 had a different experience that opened their eyes. Likewise, people today have different experiences that open their eyes, but there is one key to people knowing the truth of Jesus Christ today. Verse 31 tells us that key…

but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:31

God had his word preserved for us so that we too might believe. People encounter God’s word in different ways. Some pick up and read it in a hotel room. Some accept the invitation of a friend to attend church, and they hear God’s word. Some have a friend who takes the time to share with them God’s word. Some pick a Bible up off the shelf they have had for years and finally begin to read. However one finally comes to the place of reading and hearing God’s word, the truth remains that God’s word is meant to help us encounter God and place our faith in Jesus. That truth tells us a couple things. First, if you want to truly know God then you need to know His word. Second, if you want others to believe, you need to share His word. I pray that God’s word would be a priority in your life so that you and many others will believe and find life in Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah 29

As you begin to read through Jeremiah 29 what should become immediately obvious is that God is at work even in the difficult circumstances that the Israelites found themselves in. Yes, they were in exile, but they were there because God sent them there. Truly their circumstances were not by accident or not because there was a force greater than God, but because God was working a plan. We should be comforted in this truth because when we face our own difficulties, we too can know that God is at work. That in fact is a promise we find in Romans 8:28. However, let’s not forget to read far enough to see ultimately what God is trying to do with these difficult circumstances. They were meant to bring the people back to God. How do I know that? Verses 12-14 tell us…

12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

God was using the difficult circumstances to get the people to a place where they eventually call to him and seek him with all their heart. Unfortunately, we all have to admit that we have a tendency to drift from God. We have a tendency to lose sight of his goodness and to lose sight of his will for our lives. When we lose sight of God, we suffer. However, if God allows us to suffer it is because he wants that suffering to draw us back to Him, so we seek Him, so we are found by Him, and then we are restored by Him. That is all good news. If you find yourself in a situation where you are suffering, look to God. I have no doubt that in the midst of the suffering, God is wanting you to seek Him more. If you seek Him with all your heart, you will find God and experience his restoration in your life.

Exodus 19

Mark Twain is given credit as saying, “Some people are troubled by the things in the Bible they can’t understand. The things that trouble me are the things I can understand.” There is some debate as to whether these words originated with Mark Twain, but the reality is the point he was making is undeniable. What this statement alludes to is that “doing” what we know God wants us to do is often a great challenge that we face. In Exodus 19 God was clear about his will for the people. They were to be a “kingdom of priest and a holy nation” for God. We do not have to name specific things to understand what that means. When the people heard what God wanted they responded by saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (verse 8). Their response was the correct response and the easy response to say. However, it will not be long before this same group of people are bowing down worshipping a golden calf. The unfortunate truth is we have often done the same. It may not be a golden calf that we bow to, but we have bowed to money, to prestige, and to pleasures of all kind. Like Israel we have suffered for it. Let me remind you there is a hope for when we fail to be who God wants us to be. The hope is God himself. In 1 Peter 5:10 we are told, ” And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” The God of all grace will himself restore you. Let’s make every effort to do what we know God wants us to do, but if you fail be sure to repent and turn to the God of grace and be restored.

Genesis 3

Some times it only takes a moment for the perfect vacation to turn sour. The car suffers a major mechanical problem. Someone gets sick and so everyone is stuck in the hotel room cancelling plans. The beautiful sunny weather suddenly turns to a day filled with storms, and you cannot go to the beach. Truly in an instant things can change. In Genesis 3, we unfortunately see a sudden change. What was a perfect existence in the perfect garden ends when Satan comes into the garden, tempts Adam and Eve, and the choice is made to disobey God. In that single moment everything changed as sin entered the world. We then see in chapter 3 how the consequences of disobeying God are severe. However, let’s not overlook the hope that is found in this chapter. Though many times when our vacation plans get changed there is no recovery, with God there is always hope. In Genesis 3, though sin and its consequences come, we see God give grace and point us to hope. In verse 15 God says the head of the serpent would be bruised and then in verse 21 God provides clothing to cover their nakedness while in verse 24 God blocks the way to the tree of life. All these actions by God are reminders of his grace. By blocking the way to the tree of life he was keeping the man and woman from eating from the tree and living forever in a state of sin. By providing skins for covering in verse 21, God was pointing to the fact that there could be a sacrifice made to cover our sin. In verse 15, we have what is called the “protoevangelium”– the first reference to Jesus’ death (you shall bruise his heal) which would defeat satan (he shall bruise your head). We cannot deny that the events in chapter 3 are in a way very depressing. Sin has a hefty cost. But let’s never overlook the more important truth that God’s grace can take care of our sin. There is always hope when we look to God and trust in his amazing grace.

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:17

2 Timothy 3

When I read 2 Timothy 3, I think it describes the world we live in. As Paul says, “people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”, I can’t help but think about what I see in the world around me now. Since Paul said this would be the case in the last days, it leads us to wonder is the end near. However, Paul’s focus wasn’t on whether the end was near but rather how his listeners would live. He follows this descriptor of how things would be by recognizing that his listeners had lived differently. They had been living out a faith that Paul himself had both proclaimed and lived among them. In a way, he was applauding the life they had lived. However, Paul wasn’t just concerned about how they were living currently, but he was also concerned about how they were going to live in the future. He encouraged them to continue to live out their faith and then gave them a key to how to continue on a path that is different than the world around them. Look at these important words…

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

There is the key– God’s word. Why should you make God’s word a priority in your life? Yes, God’s word points us to God which is the most important thing. However, God’s word also show us the way we should live. As we read it we are taught the will of God. As we read the Bible it shows us where we have been wrong, it trains us in righteousness and helps us be prepared to do every good work. You shouldn’t need any other reason or motivation to make God’s word a daily part of your life. Who wants to be apart of the first group Paul listed? No one should. Make God’s word a daily part of your life so that you avoid being in the wrong crowd.

2 Thessalonians 2

I believe at one point or another everyone ponders the end. When I say “end, I mean the end of time. In Christian circles this is often called the day of the Lord because we know that the end comes when the Lord returns. The issue with everyone’s wondering when the end will come is that false teachers often take advantage of believers. Since the details of the Lord’s return are unclear at best (though some say it is clear to them), false teachers are always trying to take advantage for their personal gain. In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul is dealing with one of these times when false teachers had actually said that the Day of the Lord had already come. It is interesting to me that some people believed that lie since what we can know about the end seems to make it clear that there will be no doubt when they day happens. None-the-less, Paul had to give a warning not to believe the false report. He even said don’t believe “a spirit, a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us.” Seems like he covered all the bases. This warning is still needed in our day for false teachers are still taking advantage of a fascination with the end times. I would simply say don’t ever believe a preacher, teacher, prophet, or even spirit who predicts the end of time. Jesus said no one knows but the father. I would even take it a step further and say stop listening to the teaching or preaching or anyone who predicts the end because if they are false on that matter I would be concerned about what they are teaching in regards to other spiritual matters. Instead do what Paul said at the end of the chapter–“stand firm.” There is something to be said simply about resting in the Lord and trusting him so that you stand firm. If you are on His side then however the end comes you have no worries, you are on the winning team. Second, “hold to the traditions that you were taught.” In other words, don’t look for some new word or new revelation. There is nothing new under the sun and God’s word already contains all we need to obtain salvation and live a godly life. Stick with what God’s word makes clear. If you do you can rest and know whenever and however the end comes you are going to be just fine.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.

Colossians 1

Have you ever heard someone exclaim about someone else that that person was “their life”? Are how about someone saying something like, “Ball is life”? I know I have heard those expressions before. Now that I have a granddaughter I know the temptation to say something similar because she is precious and worth a lot of my time. I have especially seen many parents look at their baby and say that their baby was their entire life. But is that healthy? Or is that a proper view of things? Colossians 1 quickly answers that question for us when we read…

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.

Colossians 1:15-18

What is very clear here is that Jesus should be our lives. Without Him everything would fall apart. More than that, He created everything to start with. Then to top it off, He rose from the dead to prove that He is preeminent. He is first. It is so important that we understand this. Until Jesus is first in your life you will never get everything else in its proper place. If Jesus isn’t first you might let someone or something run your life and most likely take your life in an unhealthy situation. Let me encourage you today to let Jesus be your life. If you do, you will not be disappointed because as the creator of your life He knows exactly what you need, when you need and what your were created to do. If you let him be your life you can be assured that he will guide you into what is right. If you let him be your life what you will discover is that he will lead you to true life.

Ephesians 1

If you have ever applied for a position and not received an interview, you have known the pain of being rejected. When it happens one often asks, “What’s wrong with me?” However, as painful as that can be, it is much worse to be rejected by family. Family is supposed to love you no matter what! Right? Ephesians 1 reminds us that there is the love of family available to us and that it comes through the love of God the father. Throughout scripture God is referred to as father. Jesus even taught us to pray, “Our Father in Heaven.” In Ephesians 1, we are reminded that God the Father chose us and adopted us as his children through Jesus Christ. You have heard that before (if you listened to the sermon Sunday, you heard it then). One of my favorite parts of this description is found in verses 7-8 where it says…

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.

Ephesians 1:7-8

According to these verses, what God has done is lavish his grace upon us. It’s not like God looked and said, “I guess since no one else will have them I will.” No! God lavished his grace upon us and adopted us in Christ. God is overjoyed to call you his child. Maybe today you need a little encouragement. We all need that. Today I simply want you to be encouraged that God lavishly loves you. Thank God today for his love and rest in that love. Also be thankful for all those who God has adopted into the family. Paul went on to say he always gave thanks for others who were a part of the family. As you thank God for his love for you, take a moment and thank God for others you know who love God and then take a moment in some form to let a fellow member of God’s family know how much you appreciate them. Let them know how much you love them. Maybe that person needs to simply hear today, “I love you!”