< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: March 2017

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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Thursday, March 16, 2017

John 3:22 - John 4:3

John 3:22-24 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.)

After His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus left Jerusalem and settled for a little while in the province of Judea, not far from where John the Baptist was still calling for people to repent and be baptized.

John 3: 25-26 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

People began to leave John the Baptist and go to Jesus. This upset John’s loyal disciples. They didn’t think it was fair. John could have been bitter or jealous, but he wasn’t. Here’s his reply:

John 3:27-30 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”

“A person can receive only what is given them from heaven” John knew the work God had given him and he was content being “second place.” God gives different roles to different people. The type of service to which God calls us is not what matters, but whether we do it for Him from our heart. The Bible says that God has prepared good works for each of us. When we do them they will bring Him Glory and us fulfillment.

John rejoiced that God sent him to point others to Jesus. John called Jesus the bridegroom and referred to himself as the friend who brings the bride to the groom. His disciples understood this idea, because the Old Testament speaks of Israel as God’s bride to explain His faithful love for them.

When Israel worshipped idols, God used the picture of an unfaithful wife to show Israel their dangerous spiritual condition. The New Testament calls the Church the bride of Christ and Jesus the bridegroom.
In this case “the bride” was the group of Jews John was to gather and bring to Jesus. When people left him and went to Christ – that meant he was doing his job!

“He must become greater; I must become less.” This should be the goal of every Christian: to live so others see Christ.

John 3:31-36 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

This lists 4 distinct and divine qualities which set Jesus apart from John the Baptist.
His origin: Jesus was and is above all. He is from heaven; John is from earth.
Hi insight; Jesus spoke of what He had actually seen and heard in heaven. John’s knowledge was limited.

His truthfulness; “No one accepts his testimony” refers to the majority in John’s day – and sadly in ours too. The words of Jesus, Creator of the Universe are God’s words too. All that He says is true.

Jesus has the Holy Spirit without limit. John the Baptist ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit, but his power was limited. Jesus alone baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

John 4:1-3 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

When you compare the other gospels it seems like this is about the time King Herod imprisoned John the Baptist. Jesus still had much to accomplish, so got out of the limelight and went back to Galilee.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

John 2:23 - 3:21

John 2:23-25 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

So He’s doing miracles at this point. And although many people in Jerusalem believed in Jesus because of this, they really looked no further than the signs He did. They failed to look at His unique identity, to which the signs pointed.

Jesus of course knew their hearts and He knew their future. They were believing in Him for the wrong reasons.

John 3:1-2 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

The Gospel stresses that Nicodemus came privately at night. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. He’d heard, of course, everything going on about Jesus and it seems like he was on the fence about what to believe or not. And he didn’t want to compromise his position by being seen with Jesus. OR he MIGHT have wanted a long uninterrupted session with Jesus (?) We don’t really know.

But it’s often been pointed out that he came in the darkness to the light!

Beneath Nicodemus’ first statement lies a basic question: Who is Jesus? Although Jesus lacked the formal education, Nicodemus gave Him the title Rabbi. He sincerely believed Jesus to be a teacher from God. He didn’t deny the miracles as signs of God’s power given to Jesus.

Jesus didn’t answer Nicodemus’ words but his thoughts. Nicodemus seemed to think Jesus would simply lead him further along in his good religious life, yet Nicodemus lacked spiritual life. All his knowledge, morality and social position were inadequate. Nicodemus could not even “see the kingdom of God” much less enter it. But he had never questioned whether he had a place in the kingdom of God! He was Jewish! A Jewish leader!

The Greek word Jesus used for born again means to change so completely that it’s a new birth. You are created all over again. Only God can do this.

John 3:4-8 How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus could have either been asking about the physical impossibility of being born again or perhaps his question hinted at years of regrets. You can almost picture him saying, “How can I change the habits of a lifetime?” Or “If only I COULD start over from the beginning!”
But he didn’t simply need a second beginning: he needed a DIFFERENT beginning. Birth by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said he must be born of water and the Spirit. Water often pictures the cleansing, life-giving power of God’s Word. Jesus told the disciples they were clean because of the word He had spoken to them. Paul said that Christ gave Himself up for the church, “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

Jesus’ words are a call to turn from sin and receive life from the Spirit. God, the Father of all who believe, gives spiritual life through His Word and the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit.
The word flesh here is first of all the physical body, subject to weakness and death. The same word was used to describe Jesus’ coming to earth. “The Word became flesh”. But it also speaks to what a person is naturally apart from God – sinful.

Once we are born again we have a new attitude, new emotions, things in the Bible we didn’t understand before now make sense. Ones we didn’t like before we like now! 

Not only do we see the kingdom of God we become aware God has rescued us and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We belong to Him and commit to live joyfully with Him and for Him.

John 3:9-15 How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

With all Nicodemus’ knowledge of the Old Testament: scripture about new birth and the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been on his mind. But instead he asked, “How can this be?” And Jesus expressed amazement that “Israel’s teacher” failed to understand what Scripture plainly promised.
I’m not going to read all of them, but some of those verses would be: Isaiah 44:3-5, Jeremiah 31:31-33, Ezekiel 36:16-17 and 37:1-10. Jesus wasn’t saying anything different than what was in the Bible.
Peter, James and John were unschooled and they confessed Jesus as the Messiah the first time they talked to Him!

Yet here was a leader in Israel, privileged to study the Old Testament, who was ignorant about the Holy Spirit. He couldn’t grasp the illustration Jesus gave him.

Or could he, but didn’t want to? Jesus rebuked him because he rejected the witness of truth.
Jesus used “we” and “our testimony” probably including not only Himself and God, but also John the Baptist and anyone else who recognized who Jesus was.

And He challenged him to go beyond calling Him a “teacher sent by God” to acknowledge Jesus’ divine authority. It’s authoritative because He’s the only man who has been in heaven and come down to earth.

Then Jesus prepared Nicodemus to understand how Jesus’ death on the cross would bring salvation and eternal life. He referred to a well-know Bible story from the book of Numbers about when God brought a plague of poisonous snakes on the entire nation when they had rebelled against Him in the wilderness. In answer to their repentance and prayer, God delivered them through a symbol that pointed to Jesus’ death on the cross. God commanded Moses to make a snake of brass as a picture of the sting of sin and death. Then, a pole with the brass snake on it was lifted up. God promised to heal anyone bitten by a snake who looked up at the brass snake.

They would be healed by doing this because God told them that’s what they needed to do to be healed. Just like He tells us that our being saved from our sins is to believe Christ’s sacrifice – taking our sin on Himself – is what we need to do.

They weren’t saved because a snake was hanging on a pole, or Jesus was hanging on a cross. They were saved because they believed God when He said that it would save them.

Jesus is the only way to eternal life with God – because God said so!

John 3:16 – 17  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Out of His great love, God chose to save us. Hell is real and it takes God sacrificing His only Son to keep us from there! Jesus warned of hell more than He talked about heaven!
A lot of people today don’t take it seriously. Some even joke about hell. Or say “go to hell” to people they’re mad at. We need to take it seriously. Hell is eternal too – just like Heaven! But we don’t have to go there! Nobody HAS to. It’s an individual’s choice.

John 3:18-21 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

This passage closes with the personal responsibility each human has. We have to “believe and receive God’s gift” means deliverance from all condemnation. To choose not to believe means to live under His condemnation.

He says that people who don’t come to Jesus don’t want their sin exposed. They don’t want Jesus to change them.

This Gospel bluntly says that when people do not come to Jesus or make time for the Bible or prayer, it’s because they are determined to continue going their own way. God calls this unbelief “darkness.”  The attitude of unbelief is seen by God as disobedience. Unbelief is the choice to refuse Jesus as Savior, Lord and God.

But these verses are full of encouragement for all people, whatever their failings, who come to Jesus. Nicodemus left the darkness and came to the light seeking answers.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

John 2:11-22

John 2:11-12 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

John 2:13-14  When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.

The Law of Moses required all Jewish men to celebrate the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles at the temple, which was in Jerusalem. Tradition excused those who didn’t live within 20 or 30 miles of the city. But even many of those folks went too. So thousands poured into Jerusalem for these events.

Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life and the temple was God’s gift to His people – proof of His pledge to dwell with them and a picture of Jesus and His work. But now those who claimed to know Scripture best didn’t recognize Him and were failing to apply God’s principles to their own lives and their worship of God.

The sale of animals probably began as a service for the people traveling at a distance who couldn’t bring their own animals for sacrifice. Also the Passover feast which followed Passover required sacrifices of bulls, lambs, goats or doves according to the worshipper’s financial ability.

But now the animals were often sold at highly inflated prices to people who had no choice, but to pay the price. In addition, to pay the temple tax, travelers were at the mercy of money changers, who charged high fees to change money into the required half-shekels. Most offensive of all, the trade put profit before the need of people to know and worship God, because it took place in the outer court of God’s own temple.

Known as the court of the Gentiles, this part of the temple compound was where non-Jews were permitted. The merchants and money changers were in the courts everyday and instead of worshipping God they seemed to think He existed to serve them. People often start out doing right, but then they twist it for their own purposes.

And the religious authorities were allowing this barrier between God and His people.

John 2:15-17 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

(The zeal passage the disciples remembered was Psalm 69:9) Jesus’ zeal burned for God’s holiness and for justice for the oppressed. He who created all people and all things for Himself, came to HIS temple and powerfully cleared it of every obstacle to worship.

It’s thought Jesus cleared the temple twice and this was the first time. So all these people came right back to what they were doing. Ultimately the final clearing of the temple will be on Judgment Day.

John 2:18-22 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

While you can ask God questions, these people were using their question to DISPROVE Jesus as the Messiah, not prove Him. They had closed minds even though they had been waiting their whole lives for Him to come.

Jesus called the temple “My Father’s house” and both Zechariah and Malachi foretold how the Messiah would sweep the temple clean. The priests at least knew those scriptures. But they willfully refused to believe in Him. Just like many people do today.

In Jesus’ reply He told them His greatest sign of all – His own death and resurrection – proof of His divine authority and power.

Later at His trial His enemies would twist what He said. They would quote Him as saying He would destroy the temple. But of course what He said was “destroy the temple and I will raise it up in 3 days.”

Within a generation Herod’s temple wouldn’t be standing anymore. All the symbolism of the temple pointed to Him. After He died and rose the temple would be obsolete because He is the true temple of God. Now His spirit indwells His people. Therefore the church, united to Christ by the Spirit, is also the temple. We are to worship Him wherever we are.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

John 2:1-10

John 2.1-2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

After His talk with Nathanael, Jesus and His (so far) 5 disciples left Judah in the south of Israel and began the long walk north to Cana, a village near Nazareth, in the hills above the Sea of Galilee. This journey of perhaps 60 miles would have taken two or three days. 

1st-century Jewish weddings were special occasions. They didn’t have an easy life. And they were under Roman occupation. So a wedding was a chance to really celebrate and have fellowship with family and friends. It was a big deal!

The wedding was held late in the evening after the wedding feast. Afterwards the newlyweds would lead a joyful procession to their new home. The festivities continued for at least a week and the bride and groom wore crowns and wedding clothes and were treated like a king and queen as guests visited their home.

John 2:3  When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

This family may not have had much money, but no matter how poor, the bridegroom was responsible to provide enough wine for a full week of wedding festivities. Few things humiliated a family more than to have too little food and wine for guests. This was a social disaster!

It’s possible this was a wedding of a relative since Mary felt like she should go to Jesus about it. And this is the reason Bible scholars think Joseph was no longer living – a. he wasn’t mentioned and b. she went to Jesus for help.

When she said “they have no more wine” she probably wasn’t requesting a miracle. We have no reason to believe Jesus preformed miracles while growing up, and in fact later in verse 11 it actually says this was His first.

But for 30 years she had been treasuring what the angel had told her before He was born. And also the events of the night He was born. And now here He was with disciples!

John 2:4  “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

I have to admit; when I first read this it kind of bothered me. To us it comes across kind of rude. Addressing someone as Woman was a common expression back then, but it wasn’t the way a son would address his mother. A commentator suggested Jesus was preparing His mother to see Him no longer as her flesh and blood son who was obedient to her. She needed to know Jesus as her Lord and yield obedience to Him.

It probably wasn’t easy for her. But remember when Mary brought the baby Jesus to the temple and Simeon prophesized telling her a sword would pierce her heart? This may have been the start of it.

Where He says, “my hour has not yet come”, hour is a key term in John’s Gospel. Jesus knew why He came to earth. He knew His Father’s will. And whenever He spoke of His hour He referred to the cross. He knew it wasn’t time to reveal that He was the Messiah by doing a miracle.

John 2:5-9  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom asid. 

The 6 huge stone water jars were by the door and they were essential to the special ceremonial cleansing of feet, hands and household objects that Jewish tradition required. The servants listened to what Jesus said and then obeyed instantly. They filled the jars to the brim and then drew out some to give the master of the banquet. And Jesus transformed their simple act of obedience into an experience of His mighty power.

Because they were obedient, they, and Mary, were the only ones who knew Jesus had preformed a miracle.

Our lesson is: when you present your difficulty to the Lord in prayer, listen for His command. Look for how you are to obey Him in faith. Expect Him to enable you. That way we move from merely intellectual belief in Jesus to the actual experience of His strength at work in us.

Mary gave us a good example with coming to Jesus about a problem. She told Him the problem and then left it in His hands, ready to do what He told her to do about it, but not telling Him how she thought He should handle it.

John 2:10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

Jesus created this wine. And it was abundant and the best. Because that’s the way He does stuff!

This miracle shows us that Jesus cares deeply about anything that concerns His people.

But the miracle was also symbolic. In the Old Testament, wine often pointed to the joys of the Messiah’s reign and God’s restoration of His people. The prophet Amos spoke of a day when “new wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.” Wine was also a picture of intense heart satisfaction in God as well as a sign of the blessings He lavishes on His undeserving people. So remember last time when I said the John called the miracles signs because they pointed to something eternal? The miracle of Jesus creating wine points to the start of the Messiah’s reign. His earthly ministry and His death and resurrection which would restore us to God.

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Thursday, March 02, 2017

John 1:43-51

John 1:43-46 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.

It’s likely Philip was also a disciple of John the Baptists. And since he came from the same town as Andrew and Peter probably knew them and may have even discussed Jesus.

And like Andrew he couldn’t keep the good news to himself. He went and found his friend Nathanael. Both Philip and Nathanael were Godly men who clung to God’s promises about the Messiah. That’s how Philip told about Jesus, that He was the One Moses wrote about and also the prophets. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is one story! There is no full knowledge of Jesus Christ without adequate knowledge of the Old Testament.

The other important thing in these verses is – Nathanael had a question – and he went to Jesus Himself with it.

John 1:47-51 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

So Nathanael had questions and doubts, but he was open minded. And Jesus praised him for being an Israelite without deceit.

Jesus told him He had already seen him under the fig tree. It was a Jewish custom to sit and meditate under a fig tree’s leafy, shady branches, where a man could be entirely hidden. And Nathanael believed that He came from God. But Jesus basically said, “Me saying I saw you hidden in a tree is nothing – you haven’t seen anything yet! When Jacob saw the angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven – I am that ladder! I am the way – and the only way – to God!”

Nathanael would live to see the whole power and love of God become available to men.

Through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

There is nothing more important than to believe the truth about Jesus Christ, embrace the truth and live for Him, and than share the good news with others!

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