Thursday, May 31, 2012

What's in a name?

The Hatfield and McCoy feud may be the first form of the Mafia in America. The family name was protected at all cost. The name Kennedy caries the reputation of political influence and power. The name Walton to some brings the image of a two story farm house on the side of a mountain. To others it brings the image of the Wal-Mart corporation, one of the most successful china of stores in America.. The name Judas immediately produces the thought of betrayal as does the name Benedict Arnold.

Names are not simply a way we distinguish between one another. They carry our reputations, good or bad.

In Jesus' prayer he told the Father that he had kept the disciples by the Father's name and asks the Father to continue to keep them by his name (John 27:11-12). There undoubtedly is more to this, but at minimum it means, as the disciples understood who the Father was they craved to be with him.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Special Kind of Prayer

Jesus told the Father, "I pray for them, I do not pray for the world" (John 17:9, 20). His prayers were specifically for his children and those who would eventually believe in him. The things he prays here belong only to believers.

Jesus did not stop praying for us after this prayer in the 17th chapter of John. Paul writ pets that he is still making intercession for his children (Romans 8:34).

Jesus is talking to the Father on you behalf today.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our Focus

We understand through Jesus' prayer that all the gifts, the ministry, the teachings come from the Father. "They have known that all things which you have given me are from you" (John 17:7). James tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

Life's experiences can cloud the fact that God loves us personally. When this happens we can become discouraged, depressed, angry or resentful. The disciples were about to face all those feelings in less than 24 hours. Jesus had been preparing them for this time of pitch black darkness for the last few days and hours.

His prayer reminds them and us to return our focus to the eternal when the temporal overpowers our thoughts.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Father's

"I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given me out of this world. They were yours, you gave them to me...(John 17:6)."

These are precious words. They reveal the heart of the Father toward us. He choose us. He wanted us to be reconciled with him. He allowed his son to go through crucifixion so that we could be his sons and daughters.

He is not going to reject us now. He is not human. He does not Lie. He does not play with our minds. He does not deceive. He does not say one thing and mean another. He is trustworthy. If he says we are his, then we are his (Numbers 23:19).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Presidents, Monarchs and Prime Ministers

In America we know about the responsibilities and powers of a president of the United States. The general public has a foggier view of what a king or queen does. But even fewer Americans know the role of a prime minister. Except in the movies, these powerful leaders do not mingle with Joe Blow down at the corner grocery store. To understand who they are and what the do, we need someone who intimately knows them to explain it to us.

That is precisely what Jesus did for us concerning our Heavenly Father (John 17:6; 14:7-11).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

His Previous Glory

Jesus said he had glorified the Father while he was on the earth, and had finished the work the Father had given him to do. He referred to these works earlier, telling Philip to believe that he and the Father were one based on Jesus' works alone (John 14:10-11). He told the disciples that doing the works of the Father was food to him (John 4:34).

Doing the will of his Father was literally life and death to him (Matthew 26:39).

Which brings me to the question, do I cherish doing the will of my heavenly Father so that it is as important as life and death is to me?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Works of the Father

Jesus said he had glorified the Father while he was on the earth, and had finished the work the Father had given him to do. He referred to these works earlier, telling Philip to believe that he and the Father were one based on Jesus' works alone (John 14:10-11). He told the disciples that doing the works of the Father was food to him (John 4:34).

Doing the will of his Father was literally life and death to him (Matthew 26:39).

Which brings me to the question, do I cherish doing the will of my heavenly Father so that it is as important as life and death is to me?

The Secret to Eternal Life

We think of eternal life as living forever, and we are partially correct. Jesus said to Martha, "he who believes in me though he were dead, they shall he live, and he who believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). He told the Pharisees "If anyone keeps my word, e shall never die" (John 8:51). But there is much more to eternal life than living forever. Those who go to hell live forever.

Jesus reveals in his prayer to the Father, the essence of eternal life. "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

This is what makes living forever a joy, intimately knowing God and understanding that he intimately knows us (John 17:3; Colossians 2:2-3).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Now You're The Boss

If your boss came to you today and said, you have authority to get rid of anyone you chose and hire anyone you wish, your entire perspective of your peers would immediately change. At first you may contemplate getting rid of those who have knowingly caused you trouble. You might take a little pleasure in the fact tat those who persecuted you, now have to answer to you. But eventually you would need to focus your thoughts on what is best for the company.

The Father gave that kind of authority to Jesus before the earth was created. Here we are allowed to hear some of that conversation. "Father the hour has come, glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you, as you have given him authority over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him."

Jesus' focus was not on revenge but in glorifying the Father by giving life to others. How we treat others reflects back on God.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jesus' Longest Recorded Prayer

We have come to one of the longest recorded prayers of Jesus. He is about to go through the worst possible death and his entire focus is on us. This chapter is resonates with his love for each of us.

Read through John 17 and pay close attention to verse 20. "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their words..."

All that he prays for his disciples he prays for you.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Deadly Game

If we tend to worry, we play a deadly game with ourselves called "what if". Our mind easily comes up with the worst scenarios. Satan enjoys this game because he likes tormenting God's children. The game leads to depression, confusion and ultimately into unbelief.

Jesus did not hide the truth from us. He told us plainly that we would have trouble in the world. But he also said not to be afraid because he has overcome the world (John 16:39). Every trouble that does make its way into our lives is powerless to destroy us because the God of the universe is our loving Father.

We are in the Father and Jesus' hands. No one and no thing can remove us (John 10 28-30; Romans 8:31-39).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Known Thief

It gives me pause to think about all Jesus knew about his disciples yet treated them with love and respect throughout his ministry with them. Peter was going to publicly deny him. All of the disciples were going to run away when they saw the detachment of officers and soldiers coming to arrest him. And we are all familiar with the fact that Judas would sell him out for a pocket full of silver (John 16:31-32; 13:38; 13:21-27).

It was not only near the time of the crucifixion that Judas sold Jesus out. He had been taking money from the treasury of Jesus ministry all along (John 12:1-6). He was the first century con man collecting money for one cause and using it for another. Jesus knowing that Judas was a thief still allowed him to handle the finances. It is certainly not recommended to keep a known thief in charge of church books.

If Jesus was this patient and loving toward the unrepentant thief, how do you think he will respond to our sincere repentance?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Anger or Love?

All of their lives the disciples had been taught about the anger of God. Daily sacrifices had been made in the temple. They were required to bring animals to be sacrificed not only once a year at the Day of Atonement but whenever they were aware that they had committed a sin they were required to bring an animal to be butchered. All those sacrifices continually reminded them of their unworthiness and God's anger against their sin (Hebrews 10:1-3).

Jesus knew how ingrained the truth of God's anger was in their minds. It was time they understood his love for them was not diminished by his anger toward sin. So his last private words to them we're filled with assurance of the Father's love for them.

"I do not say that I shall pray the Father for you, for the Father Himself loves you" (John 16:26; 14:21-23).

The Father loves you, personally (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:14-16; Revelation 3:5). In fact, he has a special love name he personally has chosen just for you (Revelation 2:17).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Clear Communication

Jesus told his disciples, " The time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative languages, but I will tell you plainly about the Father" ( John 16:25). He is making a clear distinction between how he spoke to them before his death and how he will speak to them afterwards. The cause of the change lies fully in the death and resurrection.

Before Jesus' death there could be no constant fellowship between mankind and God. The punishment for sin had not yet been paid. The open communication had been broken. It is similar to one person purposely severely harming a friend and then attempting to pretend nothing happened between them. The harmed friend would find it impossible to restore the relationship without restitution for the harm.

When Jesus took our punishment upon himself, he made restitution between us and the Father. After his resurrection, he remained with his disciples for forty days and cleared up so many of their questions. They in turn wrote those answers down, so that we now possess the scriptures in which clear principles of life are given to us (2 Peter 1:3).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Conflicting Messages

Every thing Jesus was telling the disciples seemed confusing and mysterious to them. The pieces of the puzzle were not coming together like they had expected. We are looking back at what happened, so we tend to forget how those men experienced the entire process.

On the one hand Jesus is doing miracles, healing hundreds of people, feeding thousands with practically nothing, every act pointing to setting up a glorious kingdom on the earth. And on the other hand he keeps talking about being crucified. He tells them they will have great joy because the Father will give them whatever they ask, then he tells them they will have great sorrow and their enemies will rejoice (John 16:19-24).

We also at times experience this disconnect. It is glorious to live with God, walking with him, talking with him, obeying his words. But it is also painful when things are not going the way we fully expected them to turn out.

It is good for us to remember that God is intimately involved in our lives from the moment we are conceived through the moment of our death (Psalm 139:13); Jeremiah 1:5). Life will be confusing if we trust in our own wisdom. It is a relief to trust the one who controls the outcome (Ephesians 1:11).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Last Words

Much of what we know about the Holy Spirit comes from Jesus' departing words to his disciples. Their entire lives are about to be turned upside down again. They would no longer be seeing him on a daily basis. They needed to remember and understand all the things he had been teaching them.

The fear of the Romans and crucifixion would dominate their thinking and their action for the next few days. They would soon be filled with feelings of confusion, betrayal and anger toward Judas. They needed hope planted deep in their hearts. Jesus was using his last private moments with them to give them hope. A Divine Helper was coming; someone who came directly from the Father and from Jesus (John 14:16, 15:26).

That helper, the Spirit of Truth, would continue to teach them as Jesus had done for the last three years. But the Spirit if Truth would be with them the rest of their lives as he will be with you (John 16:7-15, 14:15-16).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Know It All

When I was in my teens, I was smart enough to recognize that I had a lot to learn about life. But for the life of me I could not guess what that could be. Intellectually I knew I was not yet fully mature, but emotionally I felt like I was as mature as a person could be.

There is a humorous saying; if you want to know something ask a teenager while he still knows it all.

However, teens have nothing on us adults. We also have the tendency to feel like we pretty much know all there is to know. We may acknowledge life is overwhelming, but really, what more is there to learn? Jesus told his disciples, "I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now, however when he, the Spirit of Truth has come he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:12).

We may not understand all there is to know about life, but we know the one who does.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Convict the World

Jesus said the Holy Spirit convicts "the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement (John 16:5-11)." Let's look briefly at each of these.

He convicts of sin because they do not believe in Jesus. Jesus took the punishment on himself so that no one has to be separated from God. When a person does not believe in Jesus, they are refusing to accept the gift of forgiveness. They are left to receive the punishment for their sin, separation from God.

He convicts of righteousness because Jesus went to the father (vs 10). After Jesus presented his sacrifice to the Father, he gave us the power to live righteously. People no longer have to be bound by the cycle of sin. But the only way to be set free is through the power found in Jesus. Therefore they are guilty for not living righteously.

He convicts of judgement because the ruler of this world is judged (vs 11). Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Colosse that Jesus disarmed principalities and powers, made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them (Colossians 2:15). Jesus has given us power over any demonic hold on us, so that we no longer need to suffer any form of addiction.

The Holy Spirit is conveying to the world the good news of salvation.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One of the Mysteries

There are many things God has only given us a tiny glimmer of light on. John touches on one of those things here. "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away.; but If I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you."

Why couldn't the Holy Spirit and Jesus dwell on earth at the same time? What Jesus tells Mary Magdalen later is a clue. "stop clinging to me. I have not yet assented to my Father." (John 20:17). The writer of Hebrews joins in the discussion when he said, "How much more shall the blood of Jesus who through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without spot or blemish cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (John 9:14).

It was not that the Holy Spirit and Jesus could not dwell on earth at the same time. It was that Jesus had to appear before his Father as the completed final sacrifice that removed our guilt. The price for sin had to be paid first, before the Holy Spirit could dwell in us.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Knowing Ahead of Time

When life is particularly difficult we can find ourselves doubting the goodness of God. "Why believe in God if this happens to his kids?"

But God warned us that we would experience trials as long as we live on earth. Peter tells us not to be surprised when we encounter various trials as though some strange thing has happened to us (1 Peter 4:12-13). Paul said the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us(Romans 8:18). James said blessed is he who endures under temptation for God will give him the crown of life (James 1:12-13).

Jesus said to his disciples that he told them about all of these things ahead of time so that they would not be made to stumble and that when it happened they would remember that he had told them about it before hand (John 15:1,4).

One of the many things trials teach us, is that we do not belong to this world. We are destined to a place where corruption does not exist and our testings will be over forever.
(Revelation 7:17, 21:4; 1 Peter 1:3-5).

Friday, May 4, 2012

Saving the Impossible

Remember Jesus' words to the disciples, "The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service". Does that remind you of anyone in the New Testament? Before Paul knew the Lord he was called Saul. He was a devout Jewish leader. He led a detachment of soldier taking Christians to Jerusalem to be tormented and murdered. He watched over the coats of the crowd that stoned Steven to death.(Acts 6:8-15, 7:1-60, 8:1-3, 9:1-2). He thought he was serving God. Yet God confronted Saul, changed his name to Paul and used him to write most if the New Testament. God is able to save those who persecute us. Do not allow hatred toward them to enter your heart.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Voted Out

In the churches I have attended, the congregation votes on whether to keep the pastor or ask him to leave. This is how the pastor is appointed the first time, then repeated after a year and most churches after the third year. Can you imagine your church voting on whether you could attend their meetings? That would certainly try my faith if I were voted out.

Jesus told the disciples that they would be kicked out of church and the time would come when people who killed them would think they were doing God a service (John 15:1-4).

In the United States we do not have to fear this yet. But many of our brothers and sisters in other countries live with this threat daily. Pray for them today that their faith hold fast. Then pray that you will remain faithful in the choices you face today.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Short on Employees

There are businesses who do not hire enough people to accomplish what needs to be done. The result is frustrated employees and bosses. The money the management saves by downsizing dissipates faster because service is down and paperwork suffers. The employees know they need help, but they do not want to lose their jobs, so they keep quite and push on.

The spiritual world is far more treacherous than the business world. We need help. Thankfully Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, whom he calls The Helper. His names reflect who he is and what he does. (John 15:26).

He gives us truthful insights into the spiritual world so that we can share the same with others (John 15:26-27).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

No Reason to Hate

It is difficult to understand why anyone would hate Jesus. He healed multitudes of people. He cared for the poor. He was kind to children. He was a gentle man.

But he also confronted evil. It did not matter to him if it were a rich young ruler, or a seasoned Pharisee, or a fisherman. He spoke the truth and he often spoke bluntly. He did not play the political games or show favoritism to the powerful.

He spoke of forgiveness, but he also spoke of repentance. He spoke of a personal relationship with God, but he also spoke of being crucified. He made approaching God available to all people, but he did not hide the fact that it could cost you your life.

Jesus said all that happened to him was to fulfill scripture (John 15:25), he then quoted from the Old Testament, "They hated me without cause". Know that it could happen to us as his representatives. Just be sure their hatred is without cause.