Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nothing is Invisible

Jesus has been talking in general (whoever drinks of this water), but now he gets personal. “Go and get your husband.” She is quick to respond, “I have no husband.” Now Jesus lays open her heart. “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly”(John 4:17-18)

In this one conversation we see reflected Hebrews 4:13. “And there is no creature hidden from his sight but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

God already knows our heart, our motives, and our intentions. He makes it clear there is no need to try to hide from him. It would be a waste of valuable time. Better to be honest with ourselves and quickly confess our need for a savior.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

No Bucket

No one likes arrogance. We are not naturally drawn to those who make themselves out to be something they are not. We avoid them and may be guilty of making fun of them behind their backs. So it is no wonder the woman at the well was skeptical. She saw a man with no bucket offering to give her water from a deep well (John 4:11). “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well…?” (John 4:12). In our language, “Do you plan to make water out of thin air?”

Jesus doesn’t bat an eye. “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting” (John 4:13-14).

We can almost hear the sarcasm in her voice. “O.k.” Give me this water so that I may not thirst nor come here to draw.” She doesn’t understand him, but he has her attention.

Has God said something to you that you can’t make heads or tails of yet? Hold steady. Wait until he speaks again. He will eventually make it clear.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Get Out of Jail Free

Jesus began his conversation with the woman at the well by asking her for a drink of water. He has her attention because he is breaking all the social rules by talking to a Samaritan, much less a woman (John 4:9 ,27). When she asks him why he is speaking to her, he does not answer her question, but brings up an entirely different topic.

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

Many people in America ask the same question the woman did. They put it this way. “Why do you Christians push your religion on other nations? Christianity is a European religion.” Not only does their question show their ignorance that Christianity is Jewish, but if they truly understood the gift Christ offers, culture and ethnicity would mean nothing to them.

If I was in prison and someone offered to set me free, I would not care where they came from.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Queen of England

Every chicken coop has its pecking order. The rooster is at the top. Then the hens come in order from the strongest to the weakest. This chain of command is observed from kindergarten through high school students; from local office politics to Corporate America, and extends from nation against nation.

In Jesus’ time the order began with the high priests, then the Jewish male, followed by the Jewish female, then somewhere near the bottom were the Samaritan males. The Samaritan women fell somewhere near or beneath male slaves

So the woman at the well in the Hebrew culture was among the most despised of human beings. Not only was she a Samaritan woman, she was a woman of poor reputation, demonstrated by the odd hour she came to the well and the number of men in her life. Yet Jesus went out of his way to bring her the gift of life (John 4).

God does not pay attention to human hierarchy. You are as important to him as the Queen of England or the President of the United States.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cross Culture Ministry

When someone goes out of their way to do something kind for me, I am not only surprised, I am humbled. Jesus went out of his way to speak to a particular woman. We refer to her as the Samaritan Woman. He was going from Judea into Galilee, but instead of taking the direct route he headed to Samaria.

The Jews hated Samaritans. The people were thought of as “half-breeds”. The Jews in Samaria had married gentiles, which had been forbidden in Old Testament times. They had formed their own place of worship separate from Jerusalem. This civil war between the Tribes of Israel had centuries of tradition. But Jesus reached out across the boundaries to reach people who waited for him (John 4:1-25).

God’s love crosses all cultures and societies.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Get it?

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:6).

Take note of the prepositions in this sentence. “He who believes IN the Son has everlasting life.” To believe in someone is to put our trust in him. We rely on his words as being dependable and we follow them. The result is life now and life forever. His ways bring enjoyment of life.

“He who does not believe the Son shall not SEE life, but the wrath of God REMAINS on him.” To not believe is to think of the person as a liar. We don’t trust what he has to say. In this case it means to reject his ways. If we reject God’s way,s we continue in our destructive choices. We will not see life. “We just won’t get it.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Our Reputation

If someone accuses us falsely or attacks our reputation in some way, we immediately become offensive. We have rights and stand up for them. We are angry at injustices, especially if they are against us. We want to be honored and revered. We may not think too highly of ourselves and may put ourselves down, but if someone else does we are ready to give them our fists figuratively or literally. In other words, we feel we must increase.

But John is filled with joy at the thought of his ministry decreasing because it means the Messiah is here (John 3:29-30). John is giving us the secret to a happy life. When all our decisions are based on what increases the view of Christ our hearts can be at rest. We no longer feel the need to endlessly defend ourselves.

Intrusting our lives and reputation to God brings peace and therefore joy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Our Perspective

John makes a clear distinction between himself and Jesus. “He who is from above is above all things” (Jesus). “He is from the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth” (John). “He who comes from heaven is above all. And what he has seen and heard, that he testifies” (Jesus) (John 3:31-33).

In other words, we speak and act from our position as limited, finite beings. We cannot understand or know all things. But God speaks from a position of knowing and understanding all things.

We error if we attempt to make ourselves equal with God in word or deed. We may strive to be like him, but this will not occur until we get to heaven (1 John 3:1-3). Even those words we do not fully understand.

It is good not to be too arrogant in our interpretation of things.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bride and Groom

John reminded his disciples that he was not the Messiah but had been sent to prepare the way before him (John 1:6-9, 23, 3:28). He pointed to the fact that the bridegroom has the bride in a wedding. The best man is just happy to be part of the process. He told them, “He must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30).

We, his messengers, need to remember we are not the savior of men. We only carry his message. It is God who convicts, persuades, convinces men to follow him. We only speak what he gives us to speak. Our ego must decrease so that God can increasingly be seen in us.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Does the Truth

“He who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:21).

“He who does the truth” is an unusual phrase. What does it mean to “do truth”?

Andy Stanley wrote a short book called, The Best Question Ever. The question is simply, “Is it wise?” Every time we are faced with a dilemma, we need to ask ourselves, is the decision we are about to make wise? Is our decision based on truth or deception? Is it based on self seeking motivation or is it motivated by service? Is anything about it questionable, or is every aspect backed by biblical principles.

Those who make decisions based on truth come to the light of God’s word without fear, manipulation or deception. Holding every conversation and decision to this standard makes the point that being authentic may be much more difficult than we think.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Turn off the Light

One of the most difficult experiences in relationships is when you see someone making choices that will have a negative effect on their lives for years to come. They are usually so caught up in the emotional fever that they do not wish to hear advice from anyone. You may have attempted to give this person a heads up but their response quickly makes it clear your input is not wanted. Many of us make the decision to remain close to them in hopes that sometime in the future, when their world falls apart, we can be there for them.

Jesus told Nicodemus that people who do not want to know the truth avoid it because it would expose their inner darkness (John 3:19-21). Unless we maintain a humble spirit and a williness to receive correction we place ourselves in danger of turning away from the light.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Not Condemned

Jesus told Nicodemus, “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He who believes in him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:17-18).

You can read Jesus words as God being angry that you don't obey him so he is condemning you. Or, you can read his words as saying, your choices have messed up your life. I am offering you a way out from your self condemning choices.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Invitation to Peace

There are principles that will help rid our lives of turmoil. If practiced, these can keep the confusion in life from destroying our inner peace. Yet many refuse to follow the simple steps that can bring their minds to rest. When people we love reject sound advice, it is helpful to remember God also deals with the issue, but on a universal scale.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

God’s invitation extends to everyone, though most will not accept it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Public Display

We think of a serpent as representing Satan, so it may seem strange that God would use a snake on a pole as a symbol of Jesus’ crucifixion. Here are some verses that shed more light on why this particular symbolism.

1. God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3).
2. For he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor 5:21).
3. When he disarmed the rulers and authorities, he made a public display of them… (Colossians 2:14)

The symbolism of a serpent points not only to our sin being nailed to the cross, but Satan himself being destroyed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Snake on a Stick

Jesus likens his death to Moses lifting the serpent in the wilderness. This story can be found in the book of Numbers 21:4-9. In a fit of discouragement the people spoke against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread” (manna).

Because of their ungrateful attitude, God sent poisonous snakes and people began to die. When they cried out for forgiveness God instructed Moses to put an image of a snake on a pole. Whoever looked at the serpent lived.

But God provided a way to escape his wrath against their ungrateful sin. So we look to Jesus’ crucifixion to forgive our sins against him.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Unlikely Messengers

Jesus’ culture had euphemisms just like our culture. One of these was the phrase, “lifted up.” We first read it in John 3:14. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” The term was the politically correct way to refer to crucifixion. We know this because of the people’s response to Jesus in John 13:34.

“The people answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he proclaimed the manner of his death and the reason for it. They did not want to hear about death and suffering. They wanted power. They did not realize power would come through these two unlikely messengers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In Heaven While on Earth

Some translations leave verse thirteen of chapter two out of the Bible. “No one has ascended o heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 2:13).

It is a strange and interesting statement. I do not understand all it means, but at the least it indicates that there is no separation between God the Son and God the father. They are literally one no matter if the Son was dwelling in a physical body on earth. There is no time or distance within God.

The mind boggling thought is that God also dwells in us and has made us sit in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Windy Days

Jesus likened being born again to the wind. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

We don’t know how God changes us, how he makes us into new creatures, but he does.

We don’t know how God reveals himself to us so that we believe, but he does.

We don’t know how God will reveal himself to those we are praying for, but we know he will.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Flesh and Spirit

We do not inherit the kingdom of God. I don’t enter it because my grandparents did or because my mom and dad did. The Kingdom is not passed down from generation to generation like we like to think. On the contrary Jesus said, “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). It is only the Holy Spirit who gives us life.

As parents we are responsible to teach our children the truth, but it is only God who makes it real to them.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

See and Enter

When Jesus first mentions being born again, he says unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). When he says it a second time he says, “… he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). God never speaks a word casually. Every word has meaning. So why did he say, “see” the first time and “enter” the second time?

Imagine you have been called to appear in court next week, but you have never been to the building. You get the address off the internet and head to the street. You have to find the building before you can enter it. So Jesus is saying you won’t even be aware there is a kingdom to enter unless God shows it to you, “see the kingdom of God”. And it is only by God working in you that you can enter into his kingdom.

We are not clever enough to figure it out. God reveals himself to us.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Born Again

We are introduced to Nicodemus for the first time in chapter three. He is an important Pharisee with a well known reputation. Driven by his desire for truth, yet fearful of losing his position with the Sanhedrin, he comes to Jesus by night. “Rabbi we know you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these works unless God is with him.”

We hear for the first time the term born again. “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John3:3).

We understand Jesus’ words from our advantage point of looking back, but to Nicodemus, these were strange words. “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4).

We do not again become physical babies, but we are nevertheless born again. God changes us so completely that he refers to what happens to us as a new birth.