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Sunday, April 09, 2017

John 6:16-21

John 6:16-21 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

The Sea of Galilee is an inland, freshwater lake, fed by the Jordan River. It lies almost 700 feet below sea level. The surrounding hills rise about 2000 feet above sea level, with the peaks beyond rising even higher. After nightfall when the air at higher elevations cools, this cooler air races down the slopes to the warmth of the low-lying lake. Strong winds are common and often stir up storms unexpectedly. Because the lake is relatively shallow, when storms strike, the wind whips up high waves that can easily swamp a small boat. This is the situation the disciples found themselves in. The men rowed until almost dawn. (the fourth watch of the night). The fishermen in the group would know how dangerous their situation was. They were afraid and struggling.

This story is in 3 of the Gospels, so it’s an important story. And there’s a reason it comes right after feeding the 5000 which is in all 4 of the Gospels. These 2 miracles are nature miracles. People were given more miracles back then to show that Jesus was God’s Son. He only had 3 years for his mission. He had to grab people’s attention. Plus, they didn’t have CNN or in-depth interviews like we do today.

Nature miracles reveal the character of God. Nobody could do either of these, but God Himself. You might be able to explain away healing, but it’s impossible for anyone else to calm a storm or feed 5000 from the little He started with.

The story is a little different in each Gospel. John doesn’t mention Peter walking on water out to Christ. And there’s a whole lesson in Peter’s part of the story – how he took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink, but he still had a flicker of faith and called out to the Lord to save him and Jesus did. But I’m only going to talk about the John story.

And to understand it we have to go back to John 6:15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

They wanted to make Him king because He miraculously fed them. There are a couple things we can say about this. One is they were caught up in the excitement – like crowds, especially big crowds often are. But also these people were ruled by Rome and they didn’t like that. They were Jews who only wanted God as their ruler. So there was kind of a resistance group at this time always looking for ways to overthrow the Roman’s hold over them. If they could have unlimited food, that would be a help, it would be one less thing they would have to depend on Rome for.

And I already mentioned that they may have remembered how Moses wrote in the Torah about the prophet (or Messiah) coming who would feed them manna. Well, Jesus just fed them manna. So maybe Jesus was the Messiah.

But again. God’s plan was never an earthly king. And Jesus is already the king over every believer’s life. Remember Satan tried to tempt Him with this very same thing.  “I’ll give you the kingdoms of the earth.” Now the people were trying to tempt Him and He resists by going off to pray.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to be popular or even to make people’s lives easier. He came to be Savior of the World!

One mistake people often still make is seeking Jesus for the wrong reasons. To get them out of a fix or to give them something they thing they need, instead of having a relationship with Him, believing he is who He says He is.

We should praise and worship Him, yes! But we should also just talk to Him. And listen to Him. And try to be more like Him.

Verses 16 and 17 again - When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.

So Jesus sends the disciples away. He didn’t want them to get any ideas about making Him king too! We know from other places in the Bible they didn’t always understand His mission either and at least one time the mother of James and John came to Jesus asking if her sons would have prominent places when Jesus came into His kingdom. They could have easily gotten caught up in the crowd.

So he sends them in the boat back to where they came from and He goes up the mountain to pray. Jesus often went somewhere to be alone in prayer and because it’s written about in the Bible it’s an important lesson for us.  We need to get away and be still with God at times. We need to pray – just God and us.

Then the storm kicks in. And the disciples were 3 and a half miles out which would have been about dead center in the lake. There was no going back. They were rowing with all their might.

The disciples straining against the oars can represent Christians today trying to do what is right. They were out there because Jesus had sent them. Yet, they still ran into trouble. A couple things to learn from this – Christians are not promised a life with no trials. And we can almost always expect them after a mountain top experience.

The disciples had just witnessed a huge miracle. They were probably ecstatic! They had chosen the fight guy to follow! They were doing exactly what Christ told them to do. And then…Boom! Big trial!

It will happen! Sometimes because Satan will go after you if he sees you victorious, sometimes it might be God humbling you, “Hey, don’t let all that go to your heard!” “let me bring you down to earth where you belong!” And sometimes you’re just on a spiritual high and you let your guard down. Maybe even sometimes God is doing a little test on your faith. Not that He needs to know how much you have, but to show you how much you have!

So Jesus comes out walking on the water. And the disciples thought they saw a ghost! It’s amazing that some people are more ready to believe in ghosts then the Creator!

The disciples were in the dark…very symbolic because they were without Christ right then! And when they were without Him, first they were afraid of the winds and waves, and then they thought they had a ghost to deal with! At least the storm was natural! One thing you can take from this is, our real distresses are often increased by our imaginary ones.

So Jesus had been up on the mountain praying. For a long time. From sundown til between 3 and 6 a.m. Anyone in here ever prayed that long? And He saw the disciples. One thing about being God – He can see in the dark! Not sure if you knew that!

We can use this picture for today. In the story, Jesus is on the mountain praying. Today He is in heaven praying. In the story, He sees the disciples struggling and needing help. Today He sees us struggling and needing help. In the story did he come right away? No, they managed to get half way across the lake before He came (after 8 hours). But, we know He came at exactly the right minute! He is the on-time God. Many times when people have gone through bad times you’ll hear them say, “You know, I just don’t think I would have lasted one second longer! God showed up in the nick of time!”

God watches us. When we’re alone, when we struggle, when we run out of support, when we don’t know what to do. When we row and row and row and just don’t seem to be getting anywhere. He has His eyes on us! We may not be paying attention to Him, but He’s paying attention to us!

Later in John you’ll see Jesus considers us His love gifts from God! Don’t you think He’s going to take care of those gifts? We are never out of His thoughts and He is going to bring every one of those gifts home to His Father.

Jesus tells the disciples “It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Sometimes people will tell you not to worry, but you still do because there’s always the chance they don’t what what they’re talking about! Or they have no control and there are certainly a lot of things to fear in life! Whether someday some doctor will tell us we have a terminal illness or someone we love and needs does, or we lost our job, or terrorism, tornados, so many things,, but Jesus is more powerful than anything on earth or in the universe! We have no reason to fear when we rely on Him. And He will come to us even when our faith is imperfect. When we have doubt. All we need is just enough faith to call out to God to save us. And He will.

In the Bible there are 2 stories about Jesus and storms. One time He calmed the storm and another He calmed His children. That’s the same with our trials. Occasionally He might resolve our problem for us. More often than not though He’ll just be with us through it. Because our trials have a purpose.

It might be to teach us patience. Or to trust in God. To be humble. It might be to teach us about His priorities, to focus on Him instead of worldly things. To be more compassionate, how to help others in their troubles. How to be grateful for what we do have. Or to stop us from doing something we shouldn’t be doing.

This story is teaching us the only thing that calms our fears is faith. Faith in the Lord who comes to us in the midst of the winds and waves of life. Who speaks to us and says, “Take heart, it is I: do not be afraid.”

He said it to the disciples then and says it to us now. Earthquakes, Aids, Mindless senseless killings, fears that wake you up in the middle of the night and weigh you down during the day – it may not look like He’s in control, but He is. And you know how we know that? Because all of these things were prophesied in the Bible. He foretold them since before the beginning of time. So there is a purpose in them. And He can and will make good things come from bad. Faith overcomes fear. Faith that Jesus is the Son of God sent for our salvation. He has overcome death. When He says be not afraid it is I – He’s saying “it is I, JESUS! THE SON OF GOD! Able to do all these things!!

Whenever we have any kind of trial, particularly those into which we know God directed us, we can remember 3 things promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempte] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1. Trials are common to all people. We think no one has it as bad as we do – no one has suffered as much as we have – that no one understands what we’re going through, but we have to face our trials with courage. Even as Christians, maybe especially as Christians, we can’t avoid trials. In this situation Jesus actually sent them into the storm.

2. God is faithful. He will never let us be tempted or tried beyond what we can bear. Jesus stands by God’s throne in constant intercessory prayer for us and remember the story of the 3 men thrown into the fiery furnace in the book of Daniel? How the king looked in and saw 4 men – and one like an angel? And no one ended up being hurt? That was Jesus. The worse times we are going through – the closer He is.

3. In every trial God will provide a way out. Just as Jesus didn’t let the disciples struggle on the sea indefinitely. He will come to us – but like this example of Him walking on water, it may not be as we would expect Him to. The way out may be a helpful friend God sends us. A promise we read in the Bible, an offer of a job, a good book to read that ends up inspiring us or giving us hope or even a solution. It could be a sense of His presence when you’re praying, or the knowledge that, hey this thing I’ve been going through has actually helped me! It’s made me stronger or opened doors to me in ways I would never have thought of myself. Like kids going through cancer and deciding to become a doctor after.

We should never just wallow in self-pity. OR try to get others to pity us. We should never become bitter or resentful. We shouldn’t even choose to feel we’re alone because it’s not true. We always have Christ. When He sends his help, like the disciples we need to reach out and pull Him into the boat with us. The saying, “Jesus never promised it would be a smooth ride, just that He would get you to your destination and that it would be worth it” may have come from this story!

Jesus is greater than anything that happens to us. Whatever His purpose for us, whatever He’s told us to do – even if it takes us into a storm at sea – He is responsible for us – we are His love gifts from His Father.

Look at verse 21 again: Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

Did you notice? They had struggled for 8 hours to get half way. But, once Jesus was with them they got immediately to the other side!

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Friday, April 07, 2017

John 6:1-15

John 6:1-4 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

So, in the past chapter Jesus spoke mostly to Jewish officials who were out to get Him. We don’t know how much time passed between then and the current scene set in the north of Galilee, but instead of people who openly opposed Him, Jesus now spoke to people who were interested in Him: the Passover pilgrims who had heard of Jesus’ miracles, casual disciples who wanted to benefit from Him and the 12 disciples He chose to walk with Him.

The Gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke fill in the background details of this next miracle. Jesus and His disciples needed to rest. Only recently Herod had executed John the Baptist, who remember was also Jesus’ cousin. (And some of Jesus’ disciples had first been John’s disciples.) Plus, the crowds were relentless.

The time was the Jewish Passover, springtime in Israel. Most Jewish men as well as their families traveled to Jerusalem for it, but Jesus decided not to this year. He was in Galilee, too far away for the temple to require Him to be there. Instead they went to the hill country above the Sea of Galilee, known today as the Golan Heights.

The men borrowed or rented a boat. They rowed across the lake to the opposite shore near where the Jordan River flows into the lake at its north end. Many people saw Jesus leave Capernaum with His disciples. There were a lot of pilgrims out and word spread quickly. People in the western towns began walking around the northern shore in search of Jesus. Pilgrims to Jerusalem who took the eastern route to avoid Samaria, would have joined in. Some of the Gospels said these people ran (about 9 miles) to see Him!

A lot of these people were sick and wanted to have Jesus heal them. And He of course had compassion for them. So, He gave up His own rest, went up the slope and sat down.
This signaled the crowd that He intended to teach them. And of course He did much more than that!

John 6:5-9 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

The other Gospels speak of the disciples’ concern to send the crowd away to find food for themselves before it became too dark. John, the only Gospel to mention Passover, jumps from the mention of that feast to this feast the Lord Jesus provides. An unexpected gift to 5000 hungry men, plus women and children. (Probably 20,000 people total).

Jesus needed no help to feed the crowd. Remember God sending the Israelites Manna from Heaven? But He had the disciples get involved and help so they would learn how much they could accomplish working with Jesus. The question He asked Philip was “to test him.”

Philip figured out what it would take and it would have been humanly impossible for them. But the disciples needed to clearly hear that first.

Phillip looked at how large the problem was. And Andrew focused on how small their resources were. Both of them had been at the wedding in Cana. Probably even drank some of the wine Jesus made… They witnessed many healings!

The boy with the loaves and fish must have been poor because that was peasant food. Bread made with barley flour. The 5 loaves would have been small, round flatbread, kind of like a pancake! The fish would have been small also – just enough to flavor the bread.

There have been a lot of sermons about this boy. Bringing all that you have – little though it is – to the Lord and God multiplying it.

John 6:10-13 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Other Gospels tell that it was the 12 Disciples who distributed the meal. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been there? How does 5 loaves of bread, each the size of a pancake and 2 fish even get passed out to 12 Disciples to begin with? What did this look like?
But the lesson is: God can do ANYTHING! At ANYTIME! And He does it lavishly! Everyone ate til they were satisfied and then there were lots of leftovers!

John 6::14-15 14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Remember it was Passover, so the thoughts of the crowd jumped to Moses and Israel’s time in the wilderness. When God gave them manna. Now, here they were in the wilderness without food and Jesus provided. So they thought this must be the Prophet that Moses talked about. It was believed that Messiah would come and reign from Jerusalem and lead the nations of the world. (Which He will one day!)

But at that time the miracle was meant to show Christ’s divine authority and the compassion of God, not a government official passing out free food.

They were ready to crown Him king though if it meant never worrying about food anymore.

The world wants us to conform. Jesus shows us the example of what to do when that happens. He goes up into the mountain and pours His heart out in prayer to God. Only God can strengthen us against temptation. We all really really need alone time with God!

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Thursday, April 06, 2017

John 5:21-47

John 5:21-30 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Immediately, at the time of accepting Christ, Jesus gives us eternal life. We’ve already crossed over from death to life. This life doesn’t end because it comes with Jesus’ promise that we won’t be judged. If we’ve received Christ we are free from God’s condemnation. Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Where Jesus said “those who have done what is good” – that means have chosen Christ. To “do evil” is to reject Christ. Eternity holds no second chances.

John 5: 31-47 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.
33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Where Jesus said if he testified about Himself it wasn’t true. That refers to the Law of Moses which required 2 testimonies in a court of law. You couldn’t have just 1 person’s word. So He gave more. “There is another” refers to God the Father. When Jesus was baptized God’s voice said “this is My Son whom I love. With Him I am well pleased” – He repeated these words at the Transfiguration. And God also spoke of His Son in the Old Testament. The entire Old Testament pointed to Jesus as the fulfillment to prophecy.

He also mentioned John the Baptists testimony. And then His own works.

But the religious leaders shut their minds to the truth. “You refuse to come to Me to have life.” Knowledge of Scripture isn’t good enough. You have to apply it. Obey it. Believe it! And you have to love God! To put Him first. To have His opinion of you mean more then other people’s opinion of you.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

John 5:1-20

In John chapter 5 Jesus’ identity is clearly revealed and both faith AND unbelief grow. So does conflict. Before the end of the chapter Jesus’ life is threatened. This chapter shows that no one can stand on the sidelines when Jesus proclaims His equality with God the Father. Everyone has to make a decision about Him.

John 5:1-5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

At this pool, crowds of disabled people gathered because of a belief that an angel occasionally imparted healing powers to the water. One man there was alone, with no friends to help him reach the water. After 38 long years, his physical inability seemed permanent. Jesus walks by and notices him.

John 5:6-7 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Why did Jesus ask him if he wanted to get well? He saw his condition. He knew the people came to this spot hoping to get in the water at the right time to be healed….

Perhaps Jesus saw that the man was so settled in his condition that he was afraid to change. Health and wholeness bring responsibility and effort that some may wish to avoid.

The man doesn’t answer Jesus’ question – just pitifully says he has no one to help him.

John 5:8  Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

Jesus challenged the man to act. To take up the risk of obedience. His command has three parts, each full of spiritual significance for us today:

“Get up!” All of Jesus’ commands carry His life-giving power to obey, but the obedience and the power are joined together and never separate. Only those who obey in faith experience His power. (Remember the royal official?)

If we are feeling helpless about some sin we have that we ask God to take away – after we ask Him we need to make every effort to stop the sin. If we are praying for healing, we need to do everything we can think of to get well. Go to the doctor, eat the right things…

Rev. Malkamus who started Hallelujah Acres wrote a book called “Why Christians Get Sick” and he said that people in his congregation prayed and prayed for health and healing, but then they’d keep smoking, or eating processed foods and bad fats and too much sugar. We have to do our part! “Do you want to get well?”

Second, Jesus said, “Pick up your mat.” Before this the man had needed someone else to do everything for him, but Jesus gave him the strength now.

And third, “Walk.” Move from where you are spiritually to where Jesus wants you to be. Choose to begin a new life with all the responsibilities that belong with it.

Today, Jesus might be telling us to “Get up and do the work I’ve prepared for you.” And remember that might very well be to tell someone about Him.

John 5:9-15 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ 
12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Jesus ordered this man to stop sinning. He looked for him because He desired more than physical healing for him. To be spiritually well, the man needed to know Jesus’ identity. “Stop sinning” may have pointed to something particular the man was doing, or it may have meant leave your sinful life, believe in me and be born again.

This whole thing about the Sabbath…God ordained one day in seven for rest. In the law of Moses, God gave the Sabbath ordinance to Israel as a sign of His covenant. It was for the people’s good. For rest, worship and enjoying God’s blessing. Jesus was born under the law so He could fulfill it perfectly for us. His death put an end to the legal demands of the law and Christians aren’t called to a legalistic attitude toward this one day in seven. However, it is good for us to do so. God designed this one day to be a delight and not a burden.

What the Pharisees did about the Sabbath that was so wrong was they added (on their own) hundreds of extra rules about the Sabbath that God never said. Like carrying your mat. Or mercifully healing someone. And following those rules became more important than following God and loving neighbors.

John 5:16-20 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.

Wouldn’t you think people would have been excited that this man got healed? But instead of remarking on this glorious work of restoration, Israel’s leaders saw only their broken rules.

This miracle was the spark that ignited the open conflict that erupted soon afterwards. Jesus’ loving compassion for this suffering man aroused the opposition that eventually cost Him His life.

God IS always at work, even on the Sabbath. Babies are born, crops grow, the wind blows…

When Jesus said “I too am working,” the Jewish leaders immediately grasped that the Lord had made a tremendous claim to deity. From now on they were out to get Him.

Where Jesus said “The Son can do nothing by Himself.” Jesus made the choice to place Himself fully in His Father’s hands. He didn’t mean He COULDN’T as much as He WOULDN’T do anything on His own initiative. Every moment, every day, Jesus chose perfect obedience and submission to God, even to His death on the cross.

Where He talks about greater works coming – there’s Lazarus’ resurrection, His own resurrection, His ascension into Heaven and the birth of the church through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Our lesson? Do nothing, but what you see Jesus doing in the Bible. Know Him. Depend on Him and He will show you His plan for your life and give you His power.

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Saturday, April 01, 2017

Review of The Jesus Club

I just finished reading the book The Jesus Club by Brian Barcelona.

This is a wonderful story about a young man who has obeyed God's calling for his life and is bringing Jesus back into the schools. Brian Barcelona was saved at 16 and by the time he graduated from high school he heard God tell him He wanted to save the high school students in America. And use Brian to do it.

The book tells how that all came about over a period of six years and is not only interesting and entertaining, but inspirational and hopeful!

I was given a copy of the book from Chosen Books for my honest review and I'm going to pass it along to our Youth Pastor.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review of Quick Tips for Busy Families

I just finished reading Jay Payleitner's book Quick Tips for Busy Families

This isn't a normal parenting "how-to" book. The author has five children and he has written down 144 tips he's used in the past that he thinks other parents will benefit from.

What I liked about the book is, first his humor. And he seems like a really good and engaged dad.

There were some tips I'd like to try, some I HAVE done or do all the time,and some that weren't that great.

Most tips are only a page long, some a page in a half, so it's easy to pick the book up for short periods of time.

It's entertaining and worth the read. Just know that while you might get a few ideas to try it's not going to give you a blue print of how to raise good kids and actually the title doesn't promise that. Most people and other reviewers look at the cover and assume that, but really it's mainly just how to connect with your kids when everyone is living busy lives.

I was given this book by Bethany House for my honest review.

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John 4:46-54

John 4:46-47  Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

All we know about this man is he was a royal official, who lived in Capernaum, about 20 miles from Cana and he was a loving father, desperately worried about his son. And when he heard Jesus, who had been performing miracles in Jerusalem, was in Cana, he traveled there as his last hope.

John 4: 48 – 50 48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

Jesus wasn’t just speaking to this man when he said “unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.” He was talking to all the unbelievers who only came to Him to see a miracle.
The father grasped that Jesus hadn’t refused to help, but was maybe encouraging him to take a step in faith. He repeated his request. And here’s the faith – Jesus told him his son would be cured and He wasn’t even going there. So, it wasn’t a case of “seeing is believing” – the man had to believe Him and head home to his son. Which he did. Faith always involves an action – you believe God’s promise enough to act on it.

The man was so confidant in Jesus, he didn’t return home until the next day!

John 4: 51-54 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”
53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.
54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.
So the whole household believed because of his faith. The father became part of Christ’s work. Park of God’s will.

Even as God the Father sent His Son Jesus into the world, He sends Christians into the world. If you are God’s child through faith in Christ, He has prepared work for you to do. To complete God-given work, to fulfill His purpose for your life, to triumph in the Holy Spirit’s power – this is a joy like no other. It is the joy of sowing, reaping and, by faith, seeing the harvest. Present joys fade into insignificance, but all you do for Christ belongs to eternity. He notices the least thing done for Him and welcomes all His children to share His eternal happiness.

God doesn’t call every believer to preach, but He does give all believers the privilege of sharing their faith. This is part of the “good-works” He has tailor-made especially for you. Like the Samaritan woman, to witness effectively, you must draw on the power of an authentic personal experience of Jesus. She didn’t know much, but she knew Jesus!

Sometimes we pray to God for help and we don’t see any results. Maybe He is answering us like Jesus did the royal official, “I will not answer your prayer as you expect and in your way. I will answer it my way, but you must cooperate with me in obedient faith.”

And the miracle came after the act of faith. After we believe we see!

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

John 4:4-45

John 4:4 Now he had to go through Samaria.

Though Israel was only 120 miles from north to south, the land was divided into three territories. In the north was the province of Galilee and in the south, Judea. Between was Samaria. They used to be in the heart of the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel, but a bitter feud had long separated the Jews from the Samaritans. 700 years in fact. When the Assyrian Empire crushed Israel and took most of the population captive and deported them.  To replace the exiled Jews, Assyria forcibly resettled non-Jews from other conquered lands to occupy Samaria. The few remaining Jews intermarried with the Gentile settlers. Their descendents intertwined the idolatrous worship of other gods with a confused belief of Yahweh, the God of Israel.

Samaritans rejected most of the Old Testament. They only accepted the first 5 books of Moses and rewrote even those to inject their own ideas. The most devout Jews would not set foot in Samaria if there was any way to avoid it. When they got to the edge of the land they would cross the Jordan River to take a longer route through Perea to the east. Once past Samaria they would cross back over the Jordan. Jesus did not HAVE to go through Samaria. He chose to. He had an appointment!

John 4:5-9  So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
So, first of all it was unusual to draw water at noon. Not only was this the hottest time of the day, but water is needed for morning chores. It’s thought she was an outcast and avoided the other women in town. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

So, first of all it was unusual to draw water at noon. Not only was this the hottest time of the day, but water is needed for morning chores. It’s thought she was an outcast and avoided the other women in town. 

Secondly, Jesus initiates the conversation. No matter how thirsty a Rabbi was he would never ask even the most respectable, moral woman for a drink. The strictest rabbinical laws forbade a rabbi ever to greet a woman in public – not even his daughter, sister or wife!

But Jesus looked at people’s needs. He didn’t worry about himself. He is unselfish, sympathetic, understanding and graciously humble. And he knew also that one way to win a person’s confidence is to ask for a service. By asking for a drink of water, Jesus placed Himself under a kind of obligation to her.

The woman was, of course, surprised. Jews didn’t even use Samaritan’s dishes! And she was curious.

John 4:10-12 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

She thought by living water He meant moving water and moving water (like from stream) is better to drink than still water in a well. She was saying if there was moving water around Jacob wouldn’t have built a well.

But Jesus revealed Himself to her as the giver of the living water of satisfaction and herself as the needy one. There are four points that stand out about Jesus’ offer of “living” water:

It is God’s gift. (“If you knew the gift of God”)
It’s tied to Jesus’ identity (“If you knew who I am”)
It’s available to those who ask (“You would have asked for the living water”)
And Jesus gives it gladly. (“I would have given the living water”)

So far the woman has seen Jesus as just some man. She needed to see Him for who He really is – the divine Son of God. – who alone has the power to give God’s gift of living water.

When Jesus talks about the living water, He’s talking about the Holy Spirit.

John 4:13-15 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

People who look for earthly pleasures get tired of them and then want more. And more. They are always thirsty. But what God gives us is peace, joy, a meaning to existence and salvation. Forever!

John 4:16-18 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

When the woman responded to Jesus’ offer with true desire, He began to reveal her deepest need. Conviction of sin was the first step in granting her the living water.

She didn’t lie when she said she had no husband, but she didn’t actually confess her sin either. Jesus said “you are right, you don’t have one – you’ve had five.”

Even today if someone has been divorced 5 times we kind of look down on them. And on top of that she was living with a man who hadn’t married her. Morally she’d been sliding downhill for a long time. And Jesus used strong words, not to condemn her, but to cause her to see her sin and her true state from God’s perspective.

She assumed since he was a stranger he didn’t know anything about her. But He knew everything. And He loved her anyway. Knowing the worst He chose to come to her, to talk to her and to offer her living water. She now thinks of Him as a prophet, not just a man. Soon she’ll know Him as the Messiah.

John 4:19-24 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

So she said nothing in self-defense. If Jesus knows your sin (and He does!) it’s kind of freeing to have it out in the open and not try to deny it.

Her statement about where to worship showed she was opening up to how she should live. Basically she was asking, “How can a sinful people worship a Holy God?”

And Jesus, knowing her heart, knew how confused she must be when all she has known was a mixture of false religions and a twisted and drastically shortened version of the Old Testament. The Samaritans had adjusted history and truth to elevate themselves over the hated Jews. They also rewrote Deuteronomy to locate the first altar the Israelites erected to Mount Gerizim, instead of Mount Ebal.

Jesus replied with a prophecy. That there was a time coming when there would no longer be one place to worship. God symbolically dwelled in the temple in Jerusalem. And remember all its rich symbolism pointed forward to God’s Son. God restricted the Israelites’ sacrifices to the temple because the sacrifices there symbolized and foreshadowed Jesus’ death on the cross.

Jesus’ reply pointed to His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit now lives permanently in every believer.  And as Jesus foretold, no temple exists anymore in Jerusalem.

He also bluntly told her “You Samaritans worship what you know not.” The wrong worship of the Samaritans was not a minor matter. It was manmade and put them under God’s wrath.

To worship in spirit and in truth contrasts with the worship of many Pharisees and others who attempted to apply the letter of the Law, but ignored the spirit. We are wired to worship and if we don’t worship God we’ll worship something else.

God desires us to worship Him, not only in outward conformity. He doesn’t want us going through a ritual, but worship Him by means of the Holy Spirit, so it’s true, not some made up version of who we are worshipping.

Worshipping in the spirit is focused, engaged, all in. And “in truth” is knowing the God who you are worshipping – all of His attributes.
John 4:25-26 5 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
This is one of the I AM statements in the Bible. Since God told Moses that’s who He was - every time Jesus said it He was saying He was God.

Jesus didn’t reveal Himself openly to the ones seeking a political Messiah, but He sought this sinful confused woman out.  Jesus always approaches people as individuals and His message is always the same – they can have eternal life, for free, if they choose to believe and receive Him.

John 4:27-30  Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

Where it says the disciples didn’t question why He was talking to a woman – I think they were beginning to get that Jesus refuses to fit neatly into our preconceptions of Him.

And she left her own water to run into town to tell others about Him. This seems symbolic – now that she had the living water, she didn’t need the water she came for.

She was a changed woman. She wasn’t hiding her sin anymore and wanted to tell people “look at what I was and look at what Jesus has done for me!” “Come and see Him!”

And the people poured out of the city to see Him because of her testimony.

The believing heart tells others of the satisfaction of God’s salvation.

John 4:31- 33 31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

The disciples had gone into town to buy food for their hungry, tired master, but Jesus was so filled with joy over the saved woman He was no longer hungry. He was caught up in God’s work. How many people would come to Christ because of her testimony? Maybe He was seeing the future in His mind right then.

John 4: 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work."

Jesus’ life aim was to do the will of His Father. That’s why He became human and came to earth. Once we become believers that becomes our purpose too. Paul embraced this. He had a hard life and he knew his future held a lot more problems. But he wrote, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

He called the people he brought to Christ his “glory and joy.” The “wages” for all his suffering.

John 4:35 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

To teach His men a spiritual truth Jesus reminded them of a common farming proverb. “It’s only 4 months until the harvest.” Farmer’s know when they plant something when it should be ready to harvest. But with God’s work we don’t. It could be immediately or it could take years. With the Samaritan woman, it happened just while the disciples were in town.

Maybe as Jesus was saying this He was watching the townsfolk stream toward Him. We need to be ready at all times.

John 4:36 – 38  Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

It is a profound privilege to share the gospel and see God give new life to people once without hope. The “wages” those who work in the fields receive are the joyful rewards of sharing the gospel. And knowing the future joy gave Jesus a deep power to endure the pain of the cross and turn it into praise.

Isaiah foretold the ministry of the Messiah when he wrote about the Suffering Servant. He was pierced for our transgressions…crushed for our iniquities. Though greatly afflicted the Servant would triumph and be rewarded. “By His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many.” This is the reward Jesus received.

With Nicodemus, Jesus sowed the seed, but the harvest would be later. With the Samaritan woman, He did both. The disciples would harvest later a lot of what Jesus was sowing now.

The next verses show the basic pattern God designed for the spread of the gospel.

John 4:39  Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

If people are to believe in Jesus Christ, someone has to tell them about Him.

Paul wrote, “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

The words of the sinful Samaritan woman were powerful because they came from her own experience. People can’t argue when you tell them your own experience. What happened to you, how you were changed….

She was so changed, the people had to go meet Jesus for themselves!

John 4: 40-41 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

Samaritans! Men and women who had wanted nothing to do with the Jews are urging Jesus to stay with them! They didn’t want to just hear through someone else. They wanted Jesus! We do need witnessing and preaching, but true living faith cannot come second hand. We need to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

John 4: 42-45 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.

*Note – the first large group of people to receive salvation and openly confess Jesus as Savior were non-Jews. Is it a wonder Jesus “had” to go through Samaria?

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