Tag Archives: life

Today’s Scripture – October 11, 2018

John 12:23-26 (NIV)
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Jesus was very aware that, despite the wave of popularity that He was riding, despite the kudos He had received, and even despite the rapt attention that was being paid to Him by this crowd that was currently hanging on His every word, this was not a public relations tour that He was on. Even the word that the Greek-speaking Jews who had come from so far away wanted to meet with Him could not sway Him from the reality of what He was there to do.

The glorification that many of His followers were looking for would come, but it was on the far side of a dark, pain-filled chasm, and could not be accessed without descending into that chasm and ascending on the far side. Jesus had come to Jerusalem this time specifically to be arrested, beaten, killed and buried. Yes, he would rise again as He knew very well, but not until after He had willingly gone through the other things first.

The words that Jesus spoke here would have struck the people who were listening to Him as odd, inscrutable. And they would have struck His disicples the same way, because they could not hear them in the context in which Jesus spoke them.

Jesus knew that new and expanded life could only come through death and transformation. If a person tries to keep a kernel of wheat, it will ultimately rot away. The things of the earth are not built to last forever. It is only as the kernel is buried in the ground and transformed that it will sprout and grow new kernels, many times more than what was planted.

Jesus knew that for God’s plan to go forward, He had to lay His life down, be willing to die, to be buried and, in the process, allow His body to be transformed into one that would be able to ascend into heaven and last forever. By grasping life and the fame He was experiencing right then, He could continue to gather a crowd, maybe even rise to temporary power in the hierarchy of the world, a rise that would ultimately be snuffed out by His eventual death. But if He followed God’s plan, laying His life down deliberately so that He could take it up later, His influence and the reach of the kingdom would extend to the ends of the earth and last forever.

The same was true of those who intend to follow Jesus. Those who play it safe in order to hold on to their earthly lives will ultimately lose their lives anyway, and will also lose any chance of powerfully impacting the world for the kingdom of God. But those who follow Jesus, who walk boldly forward in obedience to God’s commands and leading, even into the very jaws of death, will find abundant life on the other side of the chasm, and will have an influence for the kingdom beyond anything they could ever imagine.

Father, this is an amazing promise that we, as Your people, really need to understand and take hold of. But, at the same time, we must realize that the way to receiving the fulfillment of this promise is the way of the cross, the way of total surrender, the way of death. Ye it is also the way of glory, the way of victory, and the way to transformation and eternal life. I choose that way! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 10, 2018

John 11:23-27 (NIV)
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Initially, Martha’s belief in what was possible for Jesus to do was limited by the teaching she had received, and by her mere humanness. Jesus’ word that her brother would rise again shifted the discussion in her mind to the end of time when all would rise. On that day, somewhere in the misty future, she would see Lazarus again.

But Jesus was not talking about the last day. He was talking about that day. Even though He was into His fourth year of public ministry among the people of Israel, they still had no idea who He really was, just glimpses and brief insights around the edges of what He could accomplish.

So far Jesus had done amazing miracles, incredible things that far surpassed Elisha, the previous record holder for doing amazing miracles. He had healed thousands, cast out multiplied thousands of demons, cleansed lepers, raised two dead people, and even healed a man who had been born blind. But to believe that anyone, even Jesus Himself, could raise someone who had been in the tomb for four days was beyond anyone’s faith. No one had done anything even close to that, ever.

But Jesus had not come that day to commiserate with the sisters. He had come to breathe life into a situation where death lay heavy. He had come, in advance of His own death and resurrection, to show that He was, in fact, the Lord of life.

Note that Jesus did NOT say that He had come to enable resurrection and life. His claim was that He Himself was the resurrection and the life. Just as Jesus embodied the kingdom of God in His very being, Jesus also embodied real life, genuine rebirth and life from the dead. Where He walked, life existed in all its fullness, and death’s power was completely stripped away.

The life that is in Jesus is actuated in our lives through faith in Him, the heart-deep understanding that, since Jesus is life itself, to be in intimate relationship with Him by faith is to be in a living relationship with that life. Thus, for those who live in relationship with Jesus, death has no power or authority. Even though one’s physical body might die, and even decay, the life lived in Jesus will continue without a break, all the way to eternity.

As noted above, it was understood that Jesus could raise the dead, as He already had done with Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:22-43) and the widow of Nain’s only son (Luke 7:11-17). But every time He raised the dead, it was a demonstration of something even more incredibly profound: the fact that Jesus was, in fact, life itself.

Father, thank You for this reality. In relationship with You, death has no power over me, because, with You I live in the very midst of life, just as darkness has no power over someone who lives in a room filled perpetually with light. Help me, every moment, to live in the true life that is found only in You, life to the full that goes on forever in every dimension, starting right now. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 23, 2018

John 8:12 (NIV)
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The world is a dark place, full of far more questions than answers, full of troubles and ills that seem to lash out at people when they least expect it, confusing them, hurting them, even causing death and destruction on levels from individual to nation-wide. This was NOT the way that God created the world or designed it to be.

When God created the world, everything He created was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). That means that it was just as he had planned it to be, and there was no death, no disease, no sin. Even in those places on earth where it was night, the light of His presence ensured that all was well.

But when the first man and woman used their freedom to rebel against God, their desire for freedom and autonomy from Him actually released darkness of soul and slavery to their own desires into their lives instead. Their desire for greater wisdom and knowledge produced instead a darkening of their minds and intellect, and the inability to see things objectively. Their quest for power apart from God unleashed sin and death on the whole world, horrors that they found themselves powerless to understand or control.

The world continued to spin on with darkness and death infecting and affecting everything. Until one day, when the time had fully come, God sent a brilliant light into the darkness: Jesus, His One and only Son. Born and raised in humble circumstances, He was nevertheless full of the light of heaven. His mind was not clouded by ignorance; He saw all things clearly, and was able to know far more than He saw. His heart was not darkened by sin; sin had no hold on Him, and He never succumbed to temptation, even as a child.

Throughout His life, especially during the last three years or so, His light shone with ever increasing intensity, even as the darkness in the hearts of His enemies tried to snuff it out. When He spoke, His words were light, and that light took root in the hearts of all who were willing to receive them. He brought the light of wholeness and healing into the lives of those who were afflicted with the darkness of sickness and disease. And of course, the light of His presence shattered the strongholds of demons, creatures of darkness, wherever He set foot.

Jesus was right in pointing out that only those who followed Him would be able to walk in the light while the rest of the world stumbled along in ever-increasing darkness. Only those who follow Him are truly born again, given a new, untarnished life, untainted and undarkened by sin. Only those who follow His teaching can have their ignorance, false biases, and prejudices blasted away by God’s pure, undiluted truth. And only those who follow Him can have the death that they had carried along in their own souls washed away by the rivers of living water that begin to flow through their lives when they put their faith completely in Him.

Father, thank You that these truths found their way into my heart more than three decades ago. Thank You for removing all the darkness of sin that threatened to completely overwhelm me, filling me instead with the glorious light of Your Spirit through the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf. I will never be able to thank You enough for light, for life, for Your all-encompassing love. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 1, 2015

John 5:20-23 (NIV):  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.  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.  Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

When the Jewish leaders heard Jesus’ call God His Father, and believed that in so doing  He was claiming to be equal with God (verse 18), they were actually right.  Although humbled at the moment through becoming a man, the leaders were in fact trying to face down the eternal Son of God.

Jesus pointed out three areas of overlap between Himself and God:

  • The Father raises the dead and gives them life, and the Son gives life to whomever He wants.  This life-giving is on two levels.  Both God and Jesus raised the physically dead to life on several occasions – a miracle without equal.  But they both also gave spiritual life to those who were dead in their sins, separated from God, the source of all life.  This was illustrated to Ezekiel in his vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14), and was fulfilled not in the return of the exiles from Babylon, but on the day of Pentecost, when God’s Spirit blew through the assembled believers, filling them and giving them real spiritual life, which quickly spread to an additional 3,000 Jewish people (cf. Acts 2).  All of that fulfillment was enabled by the sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  Together He and the Father bring dead things to life.
  • The Father is the Judge, but He has given authority to judge to Jesus.  Those leaders didn’t like feeling that Jesus was judging them, but they were in fact facing their eternal judge, and he was finding them sorely lacking.  Jesus’ very presence was a judgment on people.  When He showed up someplace and began to speak, the people responded to Him in ways that showed the real state of their hearts – either craving and receiving His words, or rebelling against what He said, rejecting Him, and thus showing their rejection of the God who had sent Him.
  • Jesus and the Father are one, so the one who rejects Jesus and His words rejects the Father as well.  Many in Jesus’ day rejected Him, believing that by doing so they were defending God, staying true to Him.  But by rejecting Jesus, God’s final and most complete revelation of Himself, they actually rejected God and all that He had revealed of Himself previously.  By rejecting the fulfillment of the covenant, they rejected its foundation.  By rejecting the fruit as bad, they ended up rejecting the whole tree.

If Jesus had merely been a talker or a teacher, there might have been room for doubt about His claims to be the Son of God.  But Jesus did far more than just talk.  Even in this case, He had done and amazing miracle, healing instantly and completely a man who had been incapacitated for 38 years.  But, despite the outward trappings of their religion, these “leaders” had no spiritual life at all.  They were walking corpses, dressed in fine gowns to appear alive.  The saddest thing is that the One who was standing right on front of them, the One whom they were persecuting, the One they were arguing with over the relevance of the rules that they had made up, was the One who could give them real life!

Father, even today so many people look at the man, Jesus, and miss the eternal Son of God right in front of them.  They ignore the miracles (including the resurrection, which these Jewish leaders hadn’t even encountered at this stage), and they take issue with His teachings, deciding on the basis of their own thinking whether to accept or reject them.  O blind generation!  O walking dead-men!  Do you not see that the One before You is the glorious, eternal Son of God, the One who came to earth, not to teach us pithy sayings, but to give us life through the laying down of His own life?  The proper response is not intellectual wrestling, but worship. It is not weighing His words to determine if we think there might be validity to them, but whole-hearted acceptance of this man, and Who He is.  Help us, Lord, all of us who go by the name of Jesus, to so present Him to the people around us by our words and our actions, that they can see His life in us, can experience His miracles in our testimony, and can then turn to You and be saved.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 18, 2015

John 1:4-5 (NIV): In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John understood that Jesus was more than a person who merely “lived.”  In the first three verses, John told us clearly that Jesus is and was God in the flesh.  But John realized that when Jesus came, He actually carried life in Himself.  Every person is alive, but Jesus had life in Him in a completely different way.  That was why Jesus could restore health and wholeness to people – His touch and His word imparted wholeness of life where damage and disease had allowed death to gain a foothold.  It was how He could raise people from the dead – the life that was in Him overflowed into the bodies of those who had died, restoring the life that had gone from them.  And it was how He could rise from the dead Himself – the real life that was in Him could never be extinguished.

Jesus brought light and life back into a world where sin had enabled the darkness of death to reign.  The coming of this light was a recurring theme is Isaiah’s many messianic prophesies.  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1 NIV)  “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”(Isaiah 9:2 NIV)  Isaiah could see the light of Jesus’ life shining from 700 years away!  And when John wrote “the light shines in the darkness” using the present tense verb, he indicated that the light of Jesus did not just shine in the darkness while He was on earth.  It was still shining decades later when John wrote his gospel.

The translation of the final phrase of verse 5 has been the subject of much debate.  Was the darkness not able to understand the light, or was it not able to overcome the light?  The answer is, both!

The darkness was not able to understand the light of Jesus at any level.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law who opposed Jesus believed that He was just a man like them that they could plot against, attack and bring down.  But they were never able to win a single argument with Him.  They were never able to succeed in a single trap that they laid for Him.  They couldn’t understand the way He thought, the way of light, because their minds were trapped in the darkness.

Even satan himself was not able to understand the light that was in Jesus.  He thought that Jesus could be tempted to put His own needs ahead of God’s agenda (the primal idolatry that we all tend to fall into!).  But the snares and temptations that he had used successfully on everyone from Eve through David, all the way down to the days of Jesus, failed to capture Him.  As the writer of Hebrews tell us, Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)  Even before and during the crucifixion, Jesus could not be tempted into using His power and authority to free Himself or to ease His own pain.  Instead, He followed the Father’s plan to the letter, regardless of the pain and suffering, and ultimately the death that it brought Him.

And, of course, the darkness was never able to overcome the light that was in Jesus.    Even the darkness of death could not extinguish the light of life that flowed through His entire being.  After the Jewish leaders had succeeded in putting Jesus to death, they were suddenly stymied by His resurrection.  And even after Jesus left the earth, these leaders were suddenly faced with hordes of disciples who now had this same inextinguishable light in them!  They had succeeded in killing Jesus’ body, but that death had been transformed into unconquerable, unending light and life that spread through His followers, and then out into the whole world.

Father, I especially love the understanding that, after Pentecost, when Your Holy Spirit blew through the upper room, the unconquerable light and life that was in Jesus was now in His followers, driving darkness from their hearts, and empowering them to spread light and life everywhere that they went.  Lord, we need a resurgence, a revival of that light and life among Your people today.  Blow through us again.  Shine Your light into our lives so strongly that darkness has no place to hide.  And then help us to purposefully spread that light and life into ever dark corner of our world.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 11, 2014

Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV):  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

There is staggering import in these words of Paul.  The reason that people become a new creation when they trust in Jesus for salvation is that this trust leads to a real death of the old person that was, and a real resurrection in Christ as a new person, clean, fresh, and recast in the very image of Jesus.  It is this death and resurrection, not of Jesus, but of the new believer, that is represented in baptism, and that is pointed to in Romans 12:1-2, where believers are to live in this death of the old self and in the new life in Christ by continually considering themselves to be living sacrifices to God.

But, sadly, little of this imagery, and even less of this truth, remains today.  The formality of saying a “sinner’s prayer” has largely replaced the real death to the old life that is to be the hallmark of the redeemed.  And so we tend to spiritualize Paul’s words instead of living them out, and congregations are full of people who have prayed the prayer, but have not been resurrected as a new creation.

But Paul, when he surrendered to Jesus really did die to who he had been right up to the moment when the risen Jesus appeared to him outside of Damascus.  He had the same body, but the old person who had inhabited it died, and there was a brand new person living in there – a person who had a heart of love and compassion instead of hate and anger.  A person who wanted to glorify the name of Jesus instead of stamping it out.

Some may say that Paul was an exception – that normal, everyday Christians usually don’t experience that kind of huge turnaround in their lives.  But the question must be “why not?”.  Paul clearly expected that death to the old life that was focused on earthly things was the norm, and obviously had seen it happen in the people that he had helped to receive Jesus.  Likewise, he clearly saw the new birth, the new creation, as normative as well.  I believe that a key part of the answer is that we don’t teach the people whom we are leading to Jesus about the completely new life that they are to receive.  Our focus is merely on forgiveness of their sins, so that is all that they expect.

The person who receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior receives much more than mere forgiveness of their sins, as important as that is.  If forgiveness of sins was all that was needed, the sacrifices of the Old Covenant would have been sufficient.  But when a person turns away from their old life to God, when we intentionally die to our old earthly-focused existence, God grants us a new life in Jesus – a life that is qualitatively different, a life with a completely different focus and feel from the old life that we surrendered.  And then He, the God of the universe, comes and lives in our hearts, continuing the molding, shaping, and reprioritizing, to remake us into His very image.  THAT’s the difference that the New Covenant makes!

Father, as one who has experienced this death to my old self, and the new person that You made me into, I say a hearty AMEN to all of this.  After having experienced all that life in You is, I will never turn back, never return to the old way of living that I died to.  Thank You, not just for the gift of life, but for the new life that You have given to me.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 18, 2014

Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV):  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

When Cain’s offering was rejected, while his brother, Abel’s, was accepted, anger began to boil in his heart.  The core issue was very simple:  Abel had offered his sacrifice according to God’s instructions, and with a submissive heart that sought communion with God above all else.  Cain, on the other hand, wanted to be accepted on his own terms.  He brought a sacrifice based on what HE had decided to give instead of basing it on God’s instructions.  So naturally, his offering was refused.  It was principally a matter of the heart:  Abel’s heart was soft, submissive, and obedient; Cain’s was hard, rebellious, and striving for mastery, even of God.

When God saw the hatred begin to boil in Cain’s heart, hatred of Him for refusing the sacrifice, and irrational hatred against Abel because his sacrifice was accepted, He intervened.  He laid out a clear choice to Cain:  the way of life, or the way of death.  The way of life was to lay down his anger and his hatred, surrendering his will and his agenda to God, and offering the sacrifice of obedience and submission.  The way of death was to surrender to his anger, to submit his heart to the sin of hatred, and to let it lead him to actions that would ultimately separate him from all that he held dear; to put him and his descendants on a trajectory away from fellowship with God.

The key was, Cain was in a place where he could choose whichever path he wanted.  He was not powerless or helpless in the face of this anger, or of the temptation to let it fester into hatred.  Sin was indeed crouching at the door wanting to master him.  But he was a human being, not an animal.  And, as a human being, he retained the divine prerogative of choosing his response to the situation.  If he had let his heart be soft toward God, God would have given him all of the power that he needed to master the sin that was trying to trip him up.  But instead, he chose to harden his heart against God and His words.  And, as a consequence, anger turned to hatred, and hatred gave birth to murder.  And from there, the whole trajectory of humanity was changed.

People today still retain that divine prerogative:  the ability to choose how we will respond to the situations that arise and to the temptations that crop up.  If we choose to let our hearts be soft toward God and His words, He will give us all the power that we need to master the sins crouching at our door, enabling us to master the evil that is striving to master us.  But if we choose to harden our hearts against God and His words, then sin will master us, and the whole trajectory of our lives will be put on the path leading to death.

Father, help us to choose right.  Help us to keep soft hearts before You, to desire Your love and Your acceptance more than anything else.  Help us to never believe that we must give in to sin; that we have no choice.  Instead, help us to keep our hearts always turned toward You, so that we can receive Your power to be completely victorious in every situation.  Amen.

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