Monthly Archives: July 2018

Today’s Scripture – July 31, 2018

John 8:37-38 (NIV)
“I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

The conflict between Jesus and the Jewish people ultimately came down to a difference in starting point; a difference in worldview. Worldview, in the way Jesus presents it, is far more than a difference of opinion or a difference in perspective. It is a difference that originates in the heart.

At least from His human nature, Jesus shared the same bloodline as his fellow Jews. They were all physical descendants of Abraham, the ancestral father of the whole Jewish nation. And they shared common Scriptures, the very oracles of God, given through Moses and through God’s prophets down through the centuries.

But that where the similarities ended. Even starting from the same Scriptures, Jesus and the vast majority of the Jewish people, people who listened to Him, followed Him, and frequently disagreed with Him, brought an entirely different set of knowledge and experience to bear in interpreting those Scriptures, as well as a different heart. Jesus points to this difference as a difference of two fathers.

Jesus had come from the right hand of His Father in heaven, the God that the Jews claimed to worship and serve. Thus, His perspective was entirely heaven-centered. He saw things as God sees them and communicated using God’s very own words. His view of Scriptures was God’s view, even when it went crosswise to the interpretations favored by the scribes and rabbis.

The Jewish people, on the other hand, especially their spiritual leadership, were earthbound in their viewpoints and thought processes. For the vast majority of them, their relationship with God was second-hand, mediated through priests and rabbis. And, most importantly, their whole worldview was skewed and tainted by sin, the common thread that runs through all of the people of the world, and which puts a huge gulf between Jesus’ understanding of God’s kingdom and their own.

This contamination of sin and the distant relationship with God, resulted in such a profound corruption of the heart that some of those people were actually plotting against Jesus’ life, proved that they had a strong family resemblance to a different father than the Father Jesus was referring to. And, although this father remains unnamed at this point in the argument, all of the indicators were clearly pointing in an entirely different direction that God’s.

Father, we often play down worldview differences as simply differences of opinion, without tracing them back to their sources. When we do, we find that things run much deeper than we imagined, and we also find that those core differences make it incredibly difficult for us to communicate clearly with each other. It really is a difference of fathers to whom we owe our existence, and to whom we bear a resemblance. Thank You, Lord, for adopting me, for becoming my Father when I surrendered to Jesus, and for transforming my life, my heart, my entire worldview. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 30, 2018

John 8:33-36 (NIV)
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Jesus’ statement to the people that if they continued to live according to His teachings, they would know the truth that would set them free, triggered a very strange response. Instead of simply receiving this word from Jesus as they had all of those before, they instantly sprang into denial mode.

In Jesus’ day, there were only two modes of existence, freedom, meaning that you had no one who owned you and directed your life, and slavery, in which you were under the control of another. No one wanted to be thought of as a slave, as belonging to someone else and having no ability to determine their own destiny. So, these listeners instantly rejected that label, and went a step further, this step clear outside reality: they claimed that they, the Jewish people, had never been enslaved by anyone. They completely denied the 430 years that they had had lived in Egypt (Exodus 12:40), the vast majority of that time as slaves. And it completely discounted the previous 600 years of their history, since the Babylonians had taken over rulership of their nations and had taken practically the whole remainder of the country into exile in Babylonia for 70 years, followed by a string of nations who had rolled through and conquered the area that they lived in. Even in the days of Jesus, they were under the rulership of Rome and had very few rights as a nation to determine their own direction or destiny. They were all, right then, living as servants of another culture, but were in complete denial.

But there was a deeper, more significant yoke of slavery that they had allowed to be placed on their necks, about which they were also in denial: the yoke of slavery to sin. This yoke is insidious, because it actually goes by the name of freedom and autonomy, the very opposites of what it does to a person.

Sin promises freedom, but with each sin, the menu of available options shrinks. It promises autonomy and self-determination while enslaving people to habits and addictions that restrict what they can decide to do. And sin enslaves even the thought life, with sinful images and ideas entering unbidden into a person’s mind, robbing them of time and focus.

Jesus, on the other hand, promises real freedom to all who follow His teachings. Not merely physical freedom, but freedom from the bondage of the power and control of sin. Freedom to choose the right; freedom from addictions, and even freedom from intrusive sinful thoughts. In Jesus, even those who live under the bondage of physical slavery can be fully free inside, with a freedom that their worldly masters can only dream of.

Father, I have experienced the bondage of sin, although I believed at the time that I was actually free. But how heavy those bonds looked after Jesus broke me free of them and brought me into the true freedom that only can only be experienced by those who serve You wholeheartedly. Free indeed! Thank You, thank You, thank You!

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Today’s Scripture – July 29, 2018

John 8:31-32 (NIV)
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Many had put their faith in Jesus as He taught at the temple. But they believed in Him for the wrong things. Some believed in Him as miracle worker, some as a prophet, and some even entertained the notion that he was the Messiah Himself.

But none yet understood Him to be the Savior and Lord of the world. They could, perhaps, be excused, because that kind of belief wasn’t something that people could arrive at quickly. But that was fine; Jesus was willing to go slowly.

Jesus began with two simple statements. First was that, in order to be His disciple, people had to hold to His teachings, believe what He was telling them, and adjust their lives to what He said. This should not have surprised anyone. From craftsmen to rabbis, it was standard practice between teachers and their disicples that the disciple had to unquestioningly obey the teacher’s commands.

Jesus had many followers, people who wanted to be near Him, to listen to His words, and to see His miracles. But He only had a few disciples, those who followed Him consistently, everywhere He led, and who had committed themselves to complete obedience. The only thing the followers could expect were fond memories of seeing Jesus perform some miracles and of hearing deliver some profound teaching.

But the true disicples of Jesus were promised more! Yes, they too would follow Jesus. They too would see miracles. They too would hear His teachings and learn about the kingdom of God. But the true disicples who actually followed His teachings, who not only gained head knowledge of Him and His ways, but who put His teachings into practice in their lives, would know the truth about God and His kingdom, truth that would set them free from the constraints placed on their lives by human frailty and a life that would only last until death.

This truth that Jesus was talking about revealing to His true disicples was not mere propositional truth, or even in-depth knowledge of the Scriptures. Instead, as He would later reveal to His disicples (John 14:6), He Himself was the truth that sets men free. He Himself is the only gateway into the kingdom of God (John 10:7). To be in relationship with Him, to have knowledge that can only come in relationship with Himself, and is to know the Truth experientially. And that relationship is the only source of true freedom.

Father, even today we have so many who are pursuing the truth, and so many who claim to know the deep truths that might even have potential to give people health, strength, and power. But there is only one who has credibly claimed to BE the truth Himself, and that is Jesus. In intimate relationship with Him, I need no other truth to be truly free. No other truth that is hawked by humans can add anything to what He reveals in Himself of the universe, the kingdom of God, and my place in both. Thank You for the truth that only exists in Jesus, real truth You have revealed to us. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 27, 2018

John 8:25-30 (NIV)
“Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

Jesus had done such amazing things, and was now saying so many amazing things, that the religious leaders wanted Him to say directly who He believed Himself to be. At least that way they would be able to evaluate His claims.

But Jesus wasn’t into playing their games. He had already told them on more than one occasion who He was: the Son of God (John 2:16, 3:16-18, 5:17, 19-23, 43), one who had come from heaven (John 3:13, 6:38), the one who could deliver from condemnation (John 5:24), the one who has life in Himself (John 5:26), the one with God-given authority to judge (John 5:27, 30), the Bread of life (John 6:35, 48, 51, 57), the giver of living water (John 4:13-14, 7:37-38), and the Light of the world (John 8:12). He had answered their question clearly, accurately, and repeatedly over the previous two years, and was not going to repeat it. If they hadn’t paid attention, if they hadn’t heard what he had clearly said, the fault was not in Him, but in them.

The leaders of the people refused to believe in Jesus (although more and more of the people were believing). But Jesus pointed to an event that was approaching quickly: His crucifixion and, by association, His resurrection. When He died on the cross, even His death would point to His true identity for all who had eyes to see (Matthew 27:54, Mark 15:39, Luke 23:47).

But that wasn’t all. God was not going to leave Him helpless in death’s grasp. He would raise Him back to life on the third day as an undeniable testimony that all that He had said about himself was true; that His words were, in fact, God’s words. On that day, each man would have to make a choice as to whether or not to believe Jesus and be saved, or deny who He really was and be lost. Their choice, and the consequences that would accrue because of it, would be on their own heads.

Events and conversations that followed this challenge proved that, tragically, few if any of the leaders chose to believe in Jesus at that time. But of the people standing nearby and listening, Jesus’ words convinced many, who put their faith in Him.

Father, it is tragic how many are so bound up in their own belief system that they will not see Your truth when it is standing right in front of them. Jesus was not only telling the truth, He was the truth. He was not only telling them about the God that they claimed to serve, He was that God in the flesh. But they were unwilling to accept that truth, and instead chose to cling to their own version of the truth, which was being proved more and more incomplete and incorrect with every teaching that Jesus brought forth. Lord, help me to always keep an open heart as You use Your word to polish, adjust, and even supplant the truths that I hold to with Your truth. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 26, 2018

John 8:21-24 (NIV)
Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”
This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”
But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins.”

Jesus was speaking perfectly clear Aramaic to the Jewish leaders, but they couldn’t understand what He was telling them. His words didn’t seem to make any sense. The problem was not with vocabulary or syntax, but with frame of reference.

Jesus spoke from the standpoint of heaven. He spoke of heavenly things as someone with first-hand knowledge. But His words about even earthly matters were spoken from that same heavenly standpoint. So, His words didn’t add up in the earthbound minds of the religious leaders. (Compare with John 3:10-13.)

So, when Jesus was trying to communicate that these leaders had only a limited widow of time to hear and believe what He was trying to teach them, that He was then going to go away so that they would not be able to find Him (and that they would end up dying in their sins because they had not taken advantage of the opportunity while it lasted), they didn’t understand. To their earthbound minds, the only people who knew that they were going to die within a predictable timeframe were those who were contemplating suicide.

But Jesus ignored their erroneous inferences, and simply continue to teach. These leaders, despite their dealing with sacred things on a daily basis, were truly creatures of the world. They were so locked into a worldly mindset that the things of heaven seemed like nonsense to them. Jesus, on the other hand, was a being who had come from heaven. He could communicate even heavenly things to the people of the world, but only if they were willing to release their iron grip on worldly things and risk having their entire worldview transformed by the glimpses of heaven that He gave through His teaching, His parables, and His miracles.

Unfortunately, these leaders were passionate about the control that they exercised in their own spiritual lives. (The Pharisees especially were all about control.) They were unwilling to open their carefully orchestrated lives and carefully orchestrated spirituality to the chaos they felt would come from giving Jesus’ teachings serious consideration. That was tragic. Because, in the end, by rejecting Jesus and the deep truths that He was relating, these most spiritual of men were going to end up being condemned by the very God they claimed to serve.

Father, we are still prone to this serious error today. We can get so locked into a worldly mindset that we misread, misunderstand, or simply refuse to believe what You clearly say in Your word. We reinterpret the hard truths to make them more palatable, and we paint an entirely different picture in our hearts of Your kingdom and our place in it than You paint in the Scriptures. Forgive us, Lord. Open our eyes so that we truly see what You are trying to show us. Open our ears so that we can not only hear Your words, but also hear the truths You are conveying through them. And most importantly, open our hearts, shatter the chains of worldliness that block out and distort Your truth, and help us to really receive in the deepest part of ourselves what You want us to understand. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 25, 2018

John 8:19-20 (NIV)
Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.

A subtle accusation against Jesus promoted these days as well as in Jesus’ own time, is that He was illegitimate. Rumors of His unorthodox conception had been whispered in Nazareth from the moment His mother, Mary, had returned visibly pregnant from her journey to see her cousin in the hill country of Judea (Luke 1:39-50).

Even though Joseph had been persuaded by the angel Gabriel that her pregnancy was legitimate, the result not of unfaithfulness but a miracle brought about by the Holy Spirit, and even though he had married Mary and raised Jesus as his own son, the people of the town had not completely bought into it. They were not told the miraculous nature of the pregnancy, so they drew their own conclusions.

Now these suspicions and accusations were being thrown back in Jesus’ face by the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who considered illegitimacy to be a complete disqualification for leadership, let alone for the Messiahship. This was the source of the taunt, “Where is your father?”

But Jesus was unfazed by the taunts and the insinuations that lay behind them. He knew where He had come from as well as He knew what His mission was. But these peopled, the faith leaders of God’s own people, would not be able to really hear or understand who Jesus Father truly was: God Himself. So instead, Jesus merely informed them that their question/accusation simply demonstrated their ignorance of who Jesus really was and where He had actually come from. And it demonstrated their ignorance of God, the God that they claimed to serve, and of what He is capable of doing. (Unfortunately, these leaders couldn’t hear the capitalization of the word “Father” as Jesus spoke, and wouldn’t have been able to understand its significance if they had.) To really know Jesus is to know God; and to really know God is to know Jesus. But, equally, ignorance of the one results in ignorance of the other.

Father, I have heard the accusation against Jesus that He had been born an illegitimate child. But those accusations have usually been made by people who refuse to accept the reality of miracles and who do not have a relationship with You through Jesus (or by those who have been falsely instructed by them). Help us, as those who DO know You, to make You truly known every day through our lives, our actions, and our words. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 24, 2018

John 8:13-18 (NIV)
The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”
Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

The trap of the Pharisees had gone terribly wrong, and had snared them instead of Jesus, their intended quarry. So, they decided to try a different tactic: working against Jesus’ identifying Himself as the light of the world.

Of course, they were misusing the Scripture that dealt with the need for two witnesses. That Scripture deals specifically with criminal matters of a very serious nature, in which case two witnesses whose stories agreed in all essentials were necessary before someone could be convicted. It has nothing to do with a declaration of one’s own identity.

But Jesus let the context slide while He addressed the real issue at hand, and, incidentally, the fact that Jesus’ identity truly was firmly established by the only two beings who could legitimately act as witnesses.

Jesu’s first point is that, in matters of identity and origin, His own testimony was valid unless He could be proven to be lying by valid witnesses to the contrary. Jesus knew where He came from better than any competing witnesses possibly could. And considering where He had truly come from, not Nazareth or even Bethlehem, but from the Father’s side in the heavenly realms, and where He was returning to, the exact same place, He was the ONLY one qualified to speak on the matter.

The second point is on judgment. The Pharisees were incorrect in judging Jesus, because they could only judge from a world-based, world-bound perspective, from which many true things seem unlikely, and many more seem completely impossible. Because their only experience were in earthly matters, they were incapable, completely unfit, to judge issues that exist and originate in the heavenly realms. Jesus, on the other hand, had infinite experience in the heavenly realms, since that was where He had come from, so His judgment, His statements about God and about the kingdom of heaven, were intrinsically true.

However, as far as judgment of earthly things, Jesus makes the bold statement that He Himself does not pass judgment on anyone. That may sound strange to many in view of His repeated harsh statements against the Pharisees and teachers of the law. But reading a bit further, Jesus is saying something even more profound. Any judgments that He delivers are not His own opinion. When He pronounces a judgment, He is acting as a prophet, and is, in fact, speaking God’s judgment against those leaders.

With regard to the accusation that Jesus can’t be the only witness of His position in God’s plan, Jesus simply goes back to His foundational argument. There actually are two witnesses that attest to who He is. He is one, and His testimony about Himself must be accepted as valid, unless more credible witnesses can show proof that He is lying. And God Himself is the other witness, as He spoke through the prophets of old about the One whom He would send to deliver His people (John 5:39). Case closed!

Father, anyone who takes the time to get to know Jesus knows that His testimony about Himself is unquestionably true. The problem is that far too many people, both then and now, refuse to get to know Him, believing instead other people, supposedly experts, and their testimony about Him. But many of these so-called experts don’t accept Jesus’ testimony about Himself. Help me to testify with both my words and my life as to who He truly is, so that others can come to truly know Him and believe. Amen.

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