Monthly Archives: January 2016

Today’s Scripture – January 25, 2016

John 7:6-9 (HCSB):  Jesus told them, “My time has not yet arrived, but your time is always at hand.  The world cannot hate you, but it does hate Me because I testify about it—that its deeds are evil.  Go up to the festival yourselves. I’m not going up to the festival yet, because My time has not yet fully come.”  After He had said these things, He stayed in Galilee.

It was difficult for anyone to understand Jesus and the way that He operated.  Everyone around Him, including His family members, was being driven by the calendar, by the days of the month and the rhythms of the year.  Their calendar said that it was time to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, so they were preparing to leave so as to be there on the proper date.

But Jesus’ life and actions were driven by one thing:  God’s word.  God’s word had not yet come to Jesus regarding this Feast, so, despite what the calendar said, He wasn’t moving.

Jesus understood a couple of things very well.  First, His whole life was devoted to God and to doing His will in His way.  And second, that many of the people and leaders in Jerusalem were out to get Him, and would be watching for Him to show up there for the Feast.  Even when He did go, He would do so keeping a low profile until God Himself told Him to do otherwise.

These religious leaders had good reason to hate Jesus, because He openly confronted the evil in their hearts.  Much like criminals shunning places that are well-lit, the bright light of Jesus’ righteousness made these unrighteous, self-seeking people cower.  They looked great compared to the average person, but when Jesus with His genuine purity showed up, it made them look absolutely filthy by comparison.  That should have driven them to repent and turn to God for real cleansing.  Instead, their solution was to drive Jesus far away, to just get rid of Him.

Ultimately Jesus would go to the Feast, and ultimately He would face these dark-hearted pretenders.  But He would only do so at God’s command, and in God’s time.

Father, forgive us for being so self-driven, so calendar-driven, instead of merely waiting on Your word.  Even in the simplest things, like deciding on when to leave for a feast, Jesus was still 100% reliant on You, and 100% responsive to Your commands.  It is easy to see that this is one clear reason that He so easily and frequently heard Your voice.  Help me to do the same.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 20, 2016

John 7:1-5 (HCSB):  After this, Jesus traveled in Galilee, since He did not want to travel in Judea because the Jews were trying to kill Him.  The Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, so His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go to Judea so Your disciples can see Your works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he’s seeking public recognition. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”  (For not even His brothers believed in Him.)

Jesus’ life at this point was sometimes frustrating.  The Jews, the very people that the Father had sent Him to, were spiritually dead, so blind to what he was telling them that when He spoke the truth they tried to stone Him for blasphemy.

This didn’t shut Jesus up, but it did make Him pull back to Galilee, where the people, although no less blind than the Judeans, were at least not so openly hostile to Him.  The time had not yet come for Him to suffer and die, and He wasn’t interested in pushing things too far just yet.

Even His own brothers didn’t believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be.  They knew at this point that He could do miracles, but they considered Him nothing more than a wonder-worker, a freak.  Their familiarity really was a breeding ground for contempt.

Everyone was getting ready to head south to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the three important celebrations that every male in the land was supposed to go to.  But Jesus didn’t appear to be making any move to get ready to go.  His brothers couldn’t understand this.  Their remarks that He needed to go so that His disciples could see what He was doing, and about His seemingly wanting to become a great celebrity did not come from belief, but were jabs at who He claimed to be.

But Jesus never lived by the expectations and norms for the world, even the religious world.  He took His every direction from the Father.  And until the Father told Him to go, He was going to stay right where He was.

Father, it can be pretty easy to try to fit into the expectations of the world around us.  And that can do us damage, causing us to jump to a tune different that Yours.  Jesus never gave in to that kind of pressure.  Instead, He quietly waited for Your command, and when it came, and ONLY when it came, He immediately acted.  Help me to have that same level of responsiveness to Your word, so that I can glorify You with my every though, word and deed.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 10, 2016

John 6:60-71 (HCSB):  Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?” Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this offend you?  Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?  The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.  But there are some among you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who would not believe and the one who would betray Him.)  He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him.  Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!” Jesus replied to them, “Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is the Devil!”  He was referring to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, one of the Twelve, because he was going to betray Him.

This confrontation is coming to a head now.  Jesus acknowledges clearly that the main problem with the people being able to receive His words is that they are spiritual words that the people are trying to comprehend with their physical brains.  But the physical can comprehend the spiritual about as well as the human eye can perceive light in the ultraviolet range – it can’t.

Jesus knew that those His Father had called to follow Him had been spiritually awakened, and even though many spiritual things were still only dim outlines to them, they could at least see the outlines.  Those who were following Jesus for purely physical or emotional motives (including Judas Iscariot) were blind to who He truly was and to what He was trying to teach them.

It broke Jesus’ heart when so many turned away, not because He was emotionally invested in them, but because these were God’s people, the ones who had been given the very word of God, had had it for centuries, and yet they were blind.  They were so completely out of touch with the Lord, their God, that they couldn’t even understand what Jesus was trying to tell them.  Real spiritual bread was being laid out before them, but they couldn’t see it, and were going home with their deepest spiritual hunger unmet.

Peter’s confession of Jesus here, as the One who has the words of eternal life, and the Holy One of God, are just as significant as his confession of Jesus as Messiah and Son of God at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:15-16).  Peter could see, although not with perfect clarity, as could the rest who had thrown in their lot with Jesus.  The sole exception was Judas, who was following Jesus for entirely different reasons.

Father, help keep our hearts open to all that You want to say to us, because You are still speaking.  Shake us awake so that we will never turn away from You or against You.  Make us truly alive so that we can understand Your words of life that You speak to us constantly.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 6, 2016

John 6:53-59 (HCSB):  So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves.  Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.  The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Jesus was speaking spiritual truths, heavenly wonders.  But these people were listening with earthly ears, so they couldn’t understand Him.  Like Nicodemus before them (cf. John 3:1-21), their minds were so set on things of this world that things of the heavenly realms were a complete mystery, a closed book to their hearts.

To eat and drink in the spiritual sense is to partake of, to participate in, to receive into oneself.  To eat Jesus’ flesh is to receive Jesus’ sufferings on our behalf; to not only believe that Jesus’ sufferings were to pay for our sins, but to take up our own crosses and follow Him each day.

To drink Jesus’ blood is to receive salvation by owning the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.  Before a lamb was sacrificed in the temple for sins, the one presenting it would lay his hands on the head of the animal, acknowledging that the blood that was about to be poured out was payment for his own sins.  When we “drink Jesus’ blood” we are, in effect, laying our hands on His head, acknowledging that His poured-out blood was for our sins.

The body and blood of Jesus are real food and real drink in the sense that they give life to our spirits; life that will last forever.  The manna that God gave the Israelites was to feed their bodies, but their souls died.  Jesus, the true bread from heaven, was given to all men to feed our souls so that, even if our bodies die, our souls will live forever.

Father, forgive us for hearing You with only our physical ears and understanding with only our flesh-bound minds.  Your words were designed to speak to our hearts.  Lord Jesus, thank You for the very real privilege of being able to eat your flesh, to drink Your blood, and to live.  Thank You for giving Yourself so unstintingly to us, even while we were still sinners.  Amen.

 

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Today’s Scripture – January 5, 2016

John 6:47-51 (HCSB):  “I assure you: Anyone who believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever.  The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

This is the fourth time that Jesus identified Himself as the bread of life (vv33, 35, 41). Those pursuing Him, who had been part of the crowd of five thousand that received the multiplied loaves and fish, had demanded of Him a sign, just as Moses had provided the manna in the wilderness for the children of Israel.

But, as Jesus point out, there is a world of difference between the manna and Himself, the true bread of life.  Those who ate the manna all died.  Even though it was a miracle from God, manna was still just physical food.  It provided calories and nutrients, but it didn’t stop aging, or disease, or the death penalty for sins (which is what most of those in the wilderness died from!).

Jesus, on the other hand, while His flesh does not provide calories and nutrients to keep our physical bodies alive (there is physical food for that), it nourishes our souls to help them stay healthy, strong, and growing.  And it does away with the penalty for sins committed, giving our souls real life, and enabling them to live forever in God’s presence.  And the bread of Jesus is available to anyone who will believe in Jesus for salvation.

Some argue that Jesus is talking here about the Communion ceremony.  And that ceremony does indeed symbolize the flesh and blood of Jesus.  But here He is talking primarily about believing in Him and His sacrifice, not about the ritual that He would give in the future to memorialize it.  Those who believe are the ones who eat the bread and have eternal life.

Father, how easy it is to focus on the ritual, the physical bread, and lose touch with the reality that underlies it.  How easy it is to strive to get the elements and the steps and the words just right, without making sure that our belief in the real bread of life is still powerfully focused on Jesus and on the price that He willingly paid.  Help us, Lord, to eat of this bread of life every day through our living relationship with Jesus, so that we can live forever in Him.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 4, 2016

John 6:43-46 (HCSB):  Jesus answered them, “Stop complaining among yourselves.  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me—not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God. He has seen the Father.”

These people were pursuing Jesus, not because the Father had drawn them to be Jesus’ disciples, but in order to get from Him what they wanted.  The result was not a band of faithful disciples, but a mob trying to bend Jesus’ agenda to their own will.

This is a whole different paradigm from those who willingly left everything to follow Jesus (cf. Matthew 19:27), and who willingly submitted their agendas to His.  Those would become the core of the kingdom that Jesus was even then setting up on earth.

For the moment, God was drawing certain people to Jesus to be that core.  Into those people He put a genuine seeking heart that would submit themselves to Jesus; a heart that would be satisfied with nothing less than seeking and finding the true Messiah with all of themselves.

A day was coming, looming now on the horizon, when Jesus would be lifted up on the cross to pay for the sins of all humanity.  Starting then, Jesus would draw ALL people to Himself (cf. John 12:32), allowing all people to become His disciples, all who were willing to leave everything behind, to take up their own crosses and follow Him (Luke 9:23).  At that time, the prophecy from Isaiah 54:13 would finally be fulfilled:  And they will all be taught by God.

In the meantime, Jesus refused to allow this crowd to coopt His agenda, to squeeze Him into their mold, to push Him to become the Messiah that they wanted instead of the Messiah that the Father had sent Him to be.  This crowd had never seen the Father or known Him, but Jesus knew the Father face-to-face, and had for all eternity.  Jesus would set the agenda in exact accordance with the Father’s will.  And, for now, those that God was already drawing would follow.  The rest would reject Him, rebel against His teachings, and ultimately seek to destroy Him.

Father, it is amazing to me that You opened the gates of heaven to a reprobate such as I was when You drew me to Yourself.  You could easily have left me to my own devices, and I would have simply lived out a life of sin and spiritual waste until I died, not even a small blip in this world full of people.  But, by virtue of Jesus being lifted up, by virtue of His opening the gates to whoever would believe, and by virtue of His drawing all people to Himself, I was enabled to believe, to come in, to be saved, and to be transformed.  I praise You for this unfathomable mystery.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 3, 2016

John 6:41-42 (NIV):  At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

One of the greatest challenges that Jesus faced was His own humanity.  To become the Savior, the Messiah, He had to be born as a human being.  But this kind of human being was completely outside of anybody’s previous experience.

Jesus was not a reincarnation or rebirth of one of the great prophets of old.  (Elijah and Jeremiah were favorite guesses – cf. Matthew 16:14.)  He was Himself, not a mere rerun of someone else.

He was not an angel or a theophany or an avatar.  He was a real, live human being.  He got tired and hungry.  He needed food, water, and rest.  And He could be hurt, and even killed.  Jesus was fully human, and at the same time, fully God.  Even though He placed limits on Himself when He was incarnated into a human body, He still knew Who He was and where He had come from.  He still had uninterrupted communion with the Father, and complete access to all of the power of the Godhead.

But the people could only see the man, Jesus.  He could do miracles, sure, but He looked too human for them to take seriously His claim to have come down from heaven.  Some of them had known Jesus since He was a child.  They knew His father and mother.  Their eyes were so full of what they could see of who Jesus was on the outside that their hearts were blind to who He was inside.

Jesus really was God in the flesh, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, (Hebrews 1:3a NIV) but only those with eyes to see could accept Him for who He truly was.

It is the same today.  In the quest for “the historic Jesus” (who really did live, and whose life and deeds were accurately captured in the gospels), many focus so much on the man that they fail to see or refuse to accept the FULL Jesus – the Son of God recognized by His closest followers, and vindicated by His resurrection from the dead.  But a mere historical Jesus, the purely human side of Him, cannot save.  Only the full Jesus, very God and very man at the same time, had the authority to be the Messiah and the power to save.

Father, even Paul recognized how his own experience of Jesus as a man seriously misled him:  “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:16 NIV)  Help me to present Jesus every day as He truly is – very God and very man, the Savior and Messiah – so that others can experience Him for themselves, and find the same salvation that I enjoy.  Amen.

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