Wisdom Speaks Quietly

  1. Message: Proverbs 1 introduces us to a monologue style script of wisdom personified. Back in the days that I used to bounce around parts of the bible to read I didn’t quite understand that it was wisdom speaking here and some of these passages sounded so harsh and judgmental. Things like “I will laugh at you and mock you in your calamity”. This is not the heart of God, it is the consequence of our rebellion. I can think of all of the times that I had this tiny little though “I should…” and for whatever reason I didn’t act on that small voice and as soon as the consequence came I felt like the situation itself was mocking me for not listening. This is what I believe this is about.
  2. Command: Listen to wisdom. Don’t ignore her voice!!
  3. Promise: Listening to wisdom will increase learning. It also brings peace even in hardship because you aren’t anticipating a consequence.
  4. Warning: This chapter is FULL of warnings! The main warning is that once wisdom is ignored, it’s too late to avoid the consequence and you won’t be rescued from it. The situation itself will make you look like a fool.
  5. Application: My challenge to myself here is to pay attention to those small little warning thoughts. The “I should and I shouldn’ts”. Don’t brush them off no matter how small they seem.

For Better Or For Worse

  1. Message: In John 21 the disciples have another surprise encounter with Jesus. After three years of following Jesus they returned to what they knew. Fishing. They didn’t catch anything and on the way in Jesus tells them to put the net on the other side and they will catch fish. They had no reason to believe this was Jesus telling them to do this so I’m not sure why they followed the stranger’s instructions other than What did they have to lose? When they caught an overloaded supply of fish they recognized that this stranger on the shore was in fact Jesus. Peter was so overcome with joy that he jumped out of the boat and swam to Jesus. Once again, I wonder how Jesus looked and sounded that they were unable to recognize him after three years of following him. They recognized his ways. Even when they came to shore and he cooked them breakfast this passage says they did not question whether or not it was him because they recognized his ways and not his physical appearance. This is interesting because in the rest of the passage he presses Peter and his love for him and then tells him that he will suffer and die for it. He really had to know this was the Lord speaking to hear that. Also important to note is that Peter asked him “what about John”? Jesus basically told him that it didn’t matter what the plan was for John (or anyone else)- he could choose to let him live a carefree life, but he was not to be concerned with that.
  2. Command: We were called to suffer with Jesus, and though we recognize him most in the blessing, we need to stay close when the trouble comes too.
  3. Promise: Whatever is ahead, if we spend time with Jesus we will recognize his hand at work.
  4. Warning: He is the God of miracles but we are also called to suffer with him.
  5. Application: What I really got out of this whole chapter is that I have to really know God intimately in order to recognize his ways when they look different and when they seem to have a scary outcome. Peter didn’t hesitate but to jump in the lake and swim to Jesus when He recognized his ways in a stranger. That same encounter brought some pretty hard news to Peter and he really had to trust that this was still Jesus telling him these things. I think it’s tempting to hear news like this and immediately say it’s either not of God or even blame the devil. Peter recognized that Jesus was in the miracle and he was also in the warning of hard times to come. His love and trust did not change by these circumstances. He just wanted to be with Jesus. This is real life and we can recognize the goodness of God when it happens in our lives but we also need to trust and recognize him when he appears to us with words of warning and suffering. They are both Jesus and the most important thing is to be with him. He will be with us through it all. Our relationship with Jesus has always been compared to a marriage. This is a great example of “For better or for worse”.

Jesus In Disguise

  1. Message: In John 20 Mary arrives to the tomb early enough to find it empty but she was fresh on the scene because as soon as she saw it empty cried believing someone stole his body. Two angels asked her why she was crying and immediately after that Jesus himself asked her why she was crying also. Although Mary spent a great deal of time with Jesus, she didn’t recognize him until he spoke her name.  Later on when he appeared to his disciples who were hiding in a locked room they didn’t recognize him either. Not until he showed them his wounds. I find this interesting as well because why would these men whom he had spent the last 3 years with not recognize him unless he didn’t look the way he had always looked? Also interesting is that the very next thing he did was breathe on them and say “receive the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals the unseen. Before Jesus was crucified he talked about it quite a bit. There were fulfilled prophecies and he told them exactly what would happen but they didn’t understand any of it until Jesus baptized them with the Holy Spirit.
  2. Command: Don’t get stuck in the pattern of seeing everything the way it has always been. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the things we can’t see on our own.
  3. Promise: He is with us even when we can’t see him or don’t recognize him because promised to never leave us or forsake us.
  4. Warning:  If we expect to see him as we have always seen him, we will miss him when he changes approach or appearance.
  5. Application: What I got from this is that sometimes we don’t recognize Jesus at work in our lives because he has always looked a certain way to us. We expect that he’ll appear the way he always has but when he changes his approach we need the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what we can’t see. In Mary’s case he called her name and that was all it took. There is something very personal and very soothing about hearing your name spoken by a loved one and I believe we have encounters that feel so personal in nature that we suddenly recognize that the Lord is calling our name through them. When he appeared to the disciples he showed them his wounds and scars. They recognized him immediately when he did that. Could it be that we also recognize Jesus through pain?

Name Your Price

  1. Message: In John 19 Pilate has Jesus flogged to try to appease the Jewish leaders. He questioned Jesus but he brought him back outside where the Jewish leaders were waiting and told them he found no legal grounds or charging him. The Jews were not happy about it and they argued that they had their own law that said he needed to die because “he made himself the son of God”. Something I never noticed before was that Pilate was more afraid than ever by this statement. His wife had previously warned him that she had a dream and to have nothing to do with charging Jesus and now the Jews were trying to get him to give the execution sentence. He told them to do it themselves, but they pulled a political move on him. They made it about Jesus being a king and threatened his allegiance to Caesar if he didn’t do something about it. This is the move that pushed him over the edge and made him give in to their manipulative plan.
  2. Command: Don’t let anything have so much priority that it threatens our faithfulness to God.
  3. Promise: Everything that happened there was prophesied and confirmed. We have the advantage of seeing it all in scripture.
  4. Warning: Anything that we hold high in value becomes a potential stumbling block to our faith.
  5. Application: As I read this I saw that Pilate was really uncomfortable with the whole situation. He wanted none of it and after his wife had a dream and then he heard the words that Jesus spoke he was actually afraid. But his fear of political consequences was bigger. He compromised his better judgment to preserve his political position. We all have the danger of doing that. Pilate didn’t have a relationship with Jesus like we do, but if there are things in our lives that pull on us we will find ourselves tempted to give in no matter how much we say Jesus is our priority. We have to check ourselves that we don’t allow relationships, jobs, status or anything else to have a stronger pull on us than Jesus, or we will cave under pressure and compromise our faith.

Oh The Hypocrisy

  1. Message:  In John 18 Jesus is arrested and being tried by the priests and the Roman officials. While the priests were fabricating charges the Roman officials were telling them they found no fault in him. While all of this is going on, Jesus is being brought into the homes of the Roman officials, but the priests are waiting outside because they were afraid of defiling themselves. This struck me as so ridiculous because they were there falsely accusing Jesus of treason and trying to get him executed, but they were concerned about getting gentile cooties on them. IF they didn’t they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate Passover.
  2. Command: Follow after his heart and the rules will fall into place!
  3. Promise: God has a deliverance plan that is way beyond our petty motives!
  4. Warning: Our obsession over rules blinds us to the truth.
  5. Application:  As I read this I thought about all of the Christian religious things we obsess over following, while we simultaneously accuse others and hoping for their downfall. This is as sick as it gets!


  1. Message:  In Exodus 34 Moses went back up to the mountain to have the ten commandments remade after he destroyed them. God allowed Moses to experience the frustration with the people that he himself felt when they were down there worshipping a golden calf. After Moses had begged God to reconsider in destroying them, he had felt the same anger and frustration come over him and had destroyed the ten commandments. Now he was with God again and God was calming him. What really caught my attention here is that now Moses was begging God to travel with them!
  2. Command:  Don’t walk it out alone!
  3. Promise: God will walk it our with us if we ask him to
  4. Warning: Isolation brings fear. Don’t go it alone!
  5. Application: As I read through this I thought of all the times I was dreading what I had to walk though and asking God to walk through it with me. I’ve told God that I can handle whatever he requires of me as long as I know he is with me. This couldn’t be more true as I face new things even right now. I don’t have to know the plan ahead. I just need to know that God is walking through it with me and guiding each step of the way. Even if the plan is that I do nothing, I have peace because God is with me and when it’s time to move he will tell me.

Beyond Google Translate

  1. Message: In John 16 Jesus is trying to tell them that he will be “going away” but they don’t understand what he’s talking about. He also begins explaining that when he goes it will be a good thing because even though they will grieve, they will receive the gift of the comforter- which is the holy spirit. As he begins explaining that those who have the gift of the spirit can understand things that those without the holy spirit do not, it suddenly makes sense that they don’t understand what he is talking about. They don’t yet have the gift of the holy spirit. Jesus knows this because he acknowledges that he is only telling them these things so that they will remember them later.
  2. Command: Ask the holy spirit for understanding.
  3. Promise: The holy spirit was given to us as a comforter and a teacher.
  4. Warning: Trying to understand scripture and life without the help of the holy spirit is like trying to interpret a language that we haven’t learned.
  5. Application: Reading through thismade me think of all the times I’ve read what the disciples and the crowds of people were told and wondered why they didn’t understand what we have learned to understand from years of church and reading the scriptures. They didn’t have the holy spirit yet, and even though we do we often struggle to understand because we haven’t asked the holy spirit to lead us and teach us. We’re often trying to interpret scripture and interpret the events of our own lives in our understanding. It doesn’t work that way. Without the holy spirit we look as silly as Thomas when he questioned being born again as a grown man climbing back into the womb of his mother. This reading reminded me of the importance of asking the holy spirit to teach me as I read, and as I process the events of my life.

Spring is Coming!

  1. Message: John 15 has always been one of my favorite passages because I love the visual of the vine and the branches. As beautiful as that is there is a violent side to the beauty because of the pruning. I have grape vines and every year if I prune them down before spring they regrow even thicker and healthier branches. This is true of all kinds of trees and bushes but since we’re reading about vines I thought of my grape vines. We all want to flourish but nobody enjoys being pruned. In the past I had always read this passage with the idea that only the non-producing branches get hacked, but this passage clearly says that even the branches that are producing fruit get pruned so that they can produce even more fruit. Pruning can feel a lot like punishment but when you read about God pruning both the productive and the non-productive branches you realize he isn’t punishing the non-productive ones. He is pruning them all so they will be healthier. He is an equal-opportunity pruner! It doesn’t feel very loving during the pruning and it seems like this is done at a harsh time of the season. Plants are pruned after a winter when the leaves have fallen off and the plant looks dead. If you think about it, this is a time when the plant doesn’t have the warm sun and things have slowed down so the root of the plant struggles to send nourishment to the ends of the branches. If you have ever pruned or trimmed a tree you can tell the difference between the branches that are dry and brittle breaking off easily, and those that are still very much alive. Even though they look bare and unproductive you can still feel that those branches are pliable and still very much connected to the root. When you chop them down close to the root it doesn’t have to work so hard to send nourishment to the ends of the branches and it’s able to send more nourishment close to the root to make healthier branches. Before long, spring comes and the whole plant is healthier and able to flourish. The pruning is just one small part of the gardener’s job. The rest of the seasons are all about watering and nurturing the garden. God is described as the gardener in this illustration, and if you think about what a gardener does you don’t picture an angry madman hacking away at all of the plants. A gardener is actually caring for the landscaping and is regarded as a nurturer.
  2. Command: “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” (verse 4)
  3. Promise:  Those who remain in Him will produce much fruit.
  4. Warning: Apart from God we can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in Him is thrown away like a useless branch. (Just like one of those dried out brittle sticks that break off)
  5. Application:  In this illustration we are the branches and he is the gardener. We are not individual vines, we are actually all branches off of one vine as the body of Christ. God is not punishing specific branches, he is pruning the entire thing so it will be healthy and produce fruit. When we are pruned down it removes some of the unnecessary things that prevent nourishment from getting to the areas near the root (or the heart). When the heart of the body of Christ is receiving nourishment, we as branches thrive and flourish! Reading this was an encouragement that I am not alone in the pruning season. We are all being pruned together so that we can be healthier, fuller and produce healthy fruit.

The Object of Our Worship

  1. Message: In Exodus 32 Moses went up to the mountain to meet with God, and he left Aaron in charge. Aaron wasn’t just a babysitter. He had been with Moses and spoken on his behalf to Pharaoh through this entire process of freeing the people from Egypt. He and his sons had just been ordained as priests and we just read in the last chapter about the very distinguished robes made for them, and about the protocol for them going into the holy place to make sacrifices on behalf of the people. So when Moses went on the mountaintop to meet with God, he was trusted to lead the people. We don’t know how long Moses was gone, but the people got restless and told Aaron they needed him to make them gods to lead them. This idea was not new to them. They had lived in Egypt their entire lives and this was the culture they were used to so without Moses they were reverting back to familiar ways. When they asked Aaron to make them some gods he told them to bring the gold jewelry from the ears and noses of their wives and children and bring them to him. He melted it all down and created a golden calf. There is a lot to draw out of here, but what really caught my attention is that all of that gold jewelry they had came from Egypt because God gave them favor with their neighbors before they left. He had told the people to ask for it, and the people freely gave it to them. These were provisions given to them by God and they were intended to be used to worship God. Now they were worshipping the provisions in the form of a calf because they were left without good leadership and they returned to their former ways.
  2. Command: Follow and obey God.
  3. Promise: God is our provision and he will lead us well if we submit to him.
  4. Warning: When left to our own devices we will revert to old dysfunctional patterns of destruction.
  5. Application: What I really saw in this is our tendency to revert back to our dysfunction when we are not leading ourselves well because it’s familiar and feels normal to us. Even when we know it’s wrong. I also couldn’t help but notice that the object of their worship was created out of the provisions that God gave them. What was given to them by God’s favor literally became the object of their worship. When we read this we don’t think we would ever create a golden calf and worship it, but instead we create gods out of other things God has given us when they become the object of our affection of our time and of our passion. This could be a job, a family member, status or things. What we might see as responsibility or good stewardship becomes something more when we don’t allow God to lead us. I thought it was interesting that even though they knew God brought them out of Egypt, they immediately said “these are the gods that brought us out of Egypt” as soon as that calf was created. It sounds absurd but I might really know deep down that God provided for me financially, but then credit a job or my own hard work for my success. What I really took away from this reading was the importance of being led well. When we are not being led by God we will revert to our old dysfunction. Even when it doesn’t make sense.

Cleansing Grace

Cleansing Grace

  1. Message: In John 13 when Jesus removed his robe and put a servant’s towel around his waist to wash his feet Peter was horrified. Jesus told him that he wouldn’t understand it then, but he would understand it later. We talked about some of this in yesterday’s devotion but what I want to focus on here is that Jesus was putting down his priestly privilege to be a servant, and more importantly, that he intended to wash him clean by washing his feet. This was literally the role of a servant in this culture so when Peter tried to refuse it Jesus told him that unless he allowed him to wash him he couldn’t be part of him.
  2. Command: Allow God to cleanse us of the filth in our lives.
  3. Promise: Jesus loves us enough that he won’t leave us in our filth.
  4. Warning: Resisting God’s cleansing is the same as resisting God.
  5. Application: In this story the role Jesus took in washing their feet was a huge point to show the servanthood. But the emphasis was when Jesus told him that if he didn’t allow him to wash him, he could have no part in him. In my mind I don’t really corelate those two things together but when I step back from the story a bit I see where we resist letting God cleanse us. Not because we struggle with seeing Jesus lay aside his honor to cleanse us. He certainly did that on the cross, but we may not want Jesus to deal with the dirty parts of us. There are so many reasons for this so I won’t even digress to that point, but this is still true of us today. We can’t be “in him” if we don’t allow Jesus to see the dirty parts of us and clean them. We have a tendency to throw the word “grace” around. We know we don’t deserve grace, but somehow we think it means that Jesus will overlook our sin. That he will look at our filthy dirty feet and not clean them up.

Shut Up & Listen

  1. Message: Reading John 12 I was noticing all of the small details spoken in old scripture were being fulfilled by Jesus. We are only aware because the scripture mentions each one that we read. I also noticed that Jesus said and did a lot of things that the people around him didn’t understand. A lot of it was either prophetic or symbolic, but he didn’t spend too much energy trying to explain himself. He explained many things to his disciples, but to the general population he gave very vague answers. Reading it, it seems like he was covering all of the prophecies, but he didn’t expect anyone to see it or understand it at that moment. He knew they would remember the details after his death and resurrection and that would be when they would understand.
  2. Command: We don’t have to understand everything right away, we don’t have to explain everything, and we aren’t responsible for making anyone else understand.
  3. Promise: God’s word is true whether we understand it or not.
  4. Warning: We will only understand the things that we have decided in our hearts we are willing to see and hear.
  5. Application: One of my biggest weaknesses is a desire to explain or over-explain things. Sometimes they are things about life in general, and sometimes they are things about myself because I struggle with being misunderstood. I think we all do to a point, but I have always acted on that struggle by believing If I could explain well enough, I could convince people to change their perception of me or of a situation. We can certainly influence someone who wants to know what we have to say, or is interested in gaining another perspective, but we will not and cannot change the mind of someone who has already made up their mind. I believe this is what Jesus was doing here. His disciples were learning. They called him “teacher” because their hearts were open to learning from him, and therefore they understood things that the general crowd did not. The crowd was fascinated with Jesus, but they had not devoted or invested their lives to him. Jesus cared about them, but he didn’t waste his time and energy trying to get them to understand something they were not interested or invested in. He knew that later on after his death and resurrection their hearts might be open to see truth, and they would remember some of the vague things he said and did, and piece them together. As I read this I saw myself on both sides of things. As a person dying to explain away, and as a person limited in understanding. My challenge to myself is to open my heart to understand people better, and to pay attention to the people who are interested in growing with me so that I’m not trying to win someone who doesn’t want to be won, but still leave an olive branch in case they change their minds later on.

Wait For It!

  1. Message: Reading John 11 we see that Jesus was told that his friend Lazarus is dying. Instead of stopping everything to go and heal him, he stays another two days and then decides to go to Judea. By the time he gets there Lazarus had already died and been in the tomb for days. So not only was Jesus “late” in healing him but he had missed the funeral too! Mary and Martha were upset because Jesus appeared to be too late. Not only was he “late”, but he told them he was glad it happened for the glory of God. This seems insensitive until you continue reading. Even still, he wept with them before he raised him up .
  2. Command: Trust God when it seems doomed.
  3. Promise: God will work on our behalf.
  4. Warning: Gods solution sometimes comes when it appears to be over. Don’t blame him when it doesn’t do it the way we want or expect he should.
  5. Application: Jesus intentionally kept from intervening when Lazarus died. He told them it was for their good and they didn’t understand until after it was over and Lazarus was raised. I relate to this because I usually want God to stop something I’m dreading instead of showing who he is on the other side. Like Mary and Martha, I’m tempted to blame him when he doesn’t seem to care enough to show up. What I often don’t understand is why he’s allowing it instead of stopping it. In hindsight we kind of get it, but it really seems uncaring and unloving when we’re in the middle of the crisis. We feel like the only way is to stop it, and God is showing us that he will allow our circumstances to completely play out until they appear irreversible. This is hard, but God shows us how powerful he is on the other side.

The Good Shepherd

  1. Message: In John 10 Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd who lays his life down for his sheep. His sheep recognize his voice and follow him. He describes the thief and robber as those who hop the wall of the sheep pen, but the sheep don’t recognize the voice of a stranger and won’t follow him. He also mentions other sheep that are not yet in the fold that he must bring in. He says that they will recognize his voice and they will be one flock. I believe the sheep he was talking about here were the Jews that received him. They recognized him as the Messiah while others were questioning whether he was demonic. I believe the “other sheep” he mentioned here were the gentiles (which would be us). At that point he was only with the Jews. They were his chosen people, and the ones that were promised a Messiah, but they were also the ones who would reject him. After his resurrection he would send his disciples out to the gentiles to bring them in.
  2. Command: Obey the voice of God and reject any other voice.
  3. Promise: Jesus is a good shepherd and he cares for us and lays down his life.
  4. Warning: A stranger will sacrifice the sheep to save himself because he doesn’t really care about the sheep.
  5. Application: As I read this it occurred to me that all of the sheep in his flock knew him and recognized his authority. The flock in the pen were obedient and they followed their shepherd. The sheep outside the pen were scattered sheep without a shepherd that were vulnerable to any voice that called to them. Including the thief and the robber. The sheep outside the fold were unprotected and vulnerable to predators. What you don’t see in this example are sheep in the pen that are doing their own thing, aren’t listening, or are kind of following. They are either in the fold listening to the shepherd, or they are scattered sheep without a shepherd. There is no in between. What I see in this is that we can’t say we are sheep in his flock but choose to do our own thing, or obey only some of the time.We are either his sheep and are following him, or we are scattered sheep listening to any voice out there.

Do You See What He Did There?

  1. Message: In John 9 Jesus parallels physical blindness with spiritual blindness. When he encountered the blind man he told his disciples that they needed to quickly fulfill the tasks that God sent them to do because night (darkness) is coming and soon nobody would be able to work. That statement seems so out of place if you don’t pick up on the context he is trying to build between the physical condition and the spiritual condition. Then he said that while he was there, he was the light of the world.  This is the only miracle I can think of where nobody directly asked Jesus to heal. The disciples brought attention to the blind man, but nobody (including the blind man) asked Jesus to heal him. Jesus simply gave the man instructions, and when he followed them he was healed. This stirred up all kinds of trouble and when the Pharisees accused and questioned everyone (including the man that was healed) they were revealing their own pride and spiritual blindness. Jesus was making some bold statements, but he didn’t address the Pharisees directly. He said that he came to give sight to the blind, and to show those who think they see, that they are blind. Anybody else find it funny that the men Jesus called spiritually blind were called Pharisees? Here’s the most important part of this message: Jesus told the Pharisees “if you were blind you would not be guilty, but you remain guilty because you claim you can see.”
  2. Command: Humble ourselves and obey God.
  3. Promise: Obedience comes from humility and it opens our eyes.
  4. Warning: Disobedience is born out of pride and it causes blindness.
  5. Application: I believe Jesus showed us here that there is a difference in responsibility between being blind without fault, and being blinded by pride. He took a physically blind man who was born that way, and he gave him instructions. The man could have ignored the instructions, but he didn’t. He obeyed them and his obedience physically opened his eyes. This really tripped up the Pharisees and their spiritual blindness was exposed by their irrational reaction. They believed they were the ones with spiritual sight, but they were so full of themselves and motivated to protect their positions that they didn’t recognize Jesus, even though he was fulfilling everything they had studied in the scriptures. Their blindness was their own fault because they were living in disobedience to God by using a place of spiritual authority for the benefit of themselves and oppressing the people God gave them to lead. We all have different levels of responsibility and authority. How we respond to God determines what we will do with that authority and how we treat people. The physically blind man responded in obedience, but the spiritually blind men chose themselves. After I read this I asked God to open my eyes to any disobedience, pride or arrogance that would blind me.

Who’s Your Daddy?

  1. Message: Reading through John 8 the people try to understand who he is and he constantly refers back to the father. He explains to them that if they knew the father, they would know him. They don’t get it and they refer back to Abraham saying “Abraham is our father, we have been slaves to nobody.” Jesus responds by telling them that anyone who sins is a slave to sin. He also points out that slaves have no permanent family. Then he acknowledges that they are physical descendants of Abraham but points out that since they were trying to kill him, they were actually following after their spiritual father, the devil. The people are not happy with this comparison and the argument continues with Jesus telling them that if Abraham was truly their father they would follow his example, and if God was their father they would love him and would obey him.
  2. Command: Obey God!
  3. Promise: We don’t have to live as slaves. We were chosen to be sons.
  4. Warning: We don’t automatically become entitled by our physical lineage. To become a child of God is to obey God.
  5. Application: I’ve read this passage so many times in the past but this time around I really picked up on the relational correlation that Jesus was making. He referred to their roots to tug at their loyalty and point out their hypocrisy. They were very proud of their lineage to Abraham, but Jesus pointed out that they were not living like him and therefore they didn’t belong to him. Jesus acknowledged that their physical lineage to Abraham made them his physical descendants, but they couldn’t actually call him their father unless they lived honorably and obediently like he did. This would have been a huge insult because their lineage meant everything, but Jesus was shattering the notion that they were in simply because they were born in. This was a hard blow, but he was driving home an even bigger point. The Jews were known as God’s chosen people and they also had an assumption that it was a permanent relationship. Jesus was showing them that the relationship was not to be assumed. It was to be honored and respected. Not only did he poke at their loyalty to Abraham, but he took it even further by telling them that their spiritual father was actually the devil because that was who they were emulating. It didn’t seem like they responded well to this, but as I read it, it speaks to me this way. Who am I emulating? Who or what is my strongest influence? Is the one I’m emulating honorable and like God? Am I assuming I have a relationship with God simply because I prayed a prayer, go to church and call myself a Christian, or do I have a working relationship with God? Is he my father? Do I recognize his authority to call me to obedience or do I see it as my life, my choice? Is he my daddy, or is he might ticket to a better place? Bottom line is you act like the one you belong to.

Tripping Hazards

  1. Message: Jesus was avoiding Judea because he knew that the religious leaders were plotting to kill him. Interesting enough his own brothers were pushing for him to go. They didn’t believe in him but told him that going to the festival in Judea was the only way he could become more famous and get more followers. If they didn’t believe in who he was, why would they be interested in promoting his ministry? Were they plotting to kill him too? Jesus told his brothers he wouldn’t be going because it wasn’t his time yet, but he secretly went to the festival and heard all of the crowds disputing whether or not he was a prophet or a fraud. When he began to teach in the temple they were even more conflicted because they knew where he came from but didn’t understand how he became so educated without “training”. Jesus didn’t get his training from man but they knew there was something about him that made them want to believe, but they were tripped up by knowing where and who he came from.
  2. Command: Set aside the traditions and ideas that keep us from seeing who God really is.
  3. Promise: God reveals himself to us when we set aside our own beliefs and ideas.
  4. Warning: Tradition is powerful, and so is the influence of other people. We have to ask the holy spirit to reveal what only he can reveal.
  5. Application: Reading this it’s difficult to find my place in this story. Obviously none of us can put ourselves in the place of Jesus here because we can’t relate to his perfection. We don’t want to relate to the crowds or even his brothers because that puts us on the wrong side of Jesus! What really caught my attention here was that the main thing holding the people back from believing he was the Messiah, was that they knew where he came from. Not only did they know where he came from, they despised where he came from. They saw signs and miracles, and they heard him speak in a way that no teacher of the law had ever spoken, but they were tripped up by that one detail. They even tried to pull from the scriptures to disprove what they felt in their hearts to be true. I believe we all do this with things that don’t fit the narrative of what we believe to be true. In all fairness, they were almost right with so much of it, but they ignored the blatant truth that was speaking to their hearts to emphasize on one small detail that they had misunderstood. I wonder how many things that I believe to be true according to scripture, that are not fully accurate. I wonder how many things I have clung to in spite of mounting evident. What things about Jesus have I misunderstood, and replaced with tradition? Today I’m asking myself to clear the plate and ask God to show me things about himself that I don’t understand because they don’t line up with what I believe I already know about him. This is a work only the holy spirit can do inside.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

  1. Message: In John 7 the crowds are following Jesus because they have seen him do miraculous signs. Even when he tries to get away from the crowds they look for him until they find him. As he is hiding in the hills with disciples he realizes the crowds have found him again and are coming so he prepares to feed them all. This sign is not for the crowds but for his disciples. We know this because the passage says that he was testing them. After he uses the little boy’s lunch to multiply the bread and fish and feed the crowd they begin to ask him for more signs. When Jesus accuses them of following him only because he fed them, they begin to challenge who he is. I have never noticed this before but it appears they are comparing him to Moses because they tell him that Moses fed the people manna every day. Jesus corrects them and tells them that Moses did not feed the people, but his father in heaven did. Then he tells the people that he himself is the bread of life and things get really testy. They were willing to accept him as a messenger of God but the implications that he is from heaven were too much and they start coming against him and challenging him to prove who he is with more signs and miracles. Jesus doesn’t bite onto this. In fact, he takes it even further by telling them in order to follow him they will need to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
  2. Command: Acknowledge he is God and obey him even when I’m feeling selfish.
  3. Promise: God is God no matter what I believe.
  4. Warning: Selfishness challenges the place of God in our hearts. When we let selfishness drive it will challenge the very diety of God to get what it wants.
  5. Application: In this story all I could hear in my head was “what else can you do for me?” The crowd followed him to the point of stalking with the expectation of signs and miracles. Once a commitment was implied, and Jesus revealed that he was more than a servant of God there to serve them, they wanted none of it. In fact, they wanted him to do something else for them to prove he was who he said he was. This is so typical of us! We want all of the promises in the bible. We read them, quote them and sing about them, but when it comes to the obedience part, we drag our feet along. Even still we want God to show us more and more of who he is. When I thought of this I thought of the nature of selfish people. People who are takers and want whatever you will give them and more. If you stop giving to them or helping them they turn on you. We are varying degrees of these selfish people. None of us wants to identify ourselves with that, but it really is what we do to God. We want him to do all of the proving while we ignore the things he has commanded us to do. When he does not perform, we get angry at him and distance ourselves. We wouldn’t come straight out and say we’re mad at God but we hold back our affections and our obedience and deny his authority in our lives just like these people were doing. “What else can you do for me God?” I have seen this in my own life. It’s subtle and sometimes I don’t realize it’s happening because my mind talks me into believing I am silent in my prayer time because I am depressed or overwhelmed. The truth is, I am depressed and overwhelmed because I had an expectation of God and he did not behave or perform the miracle I wanted him to do. My challenge to myself is to pay attention to these attitudes in my heart and acknowledge that he is God.

Do You Want to Be Well?

  1. Message: Jesus visits an area known to be where a bunch of sick people lay on mats. He asks one man who has been sick for 38 years of he wants to be well. The man tells him that “he can’t” and gives an excuse. Jesus tells him to pick up his mat and he does. He is healed and walking around. A few days later Jesus finds him in the temple and tells him to stop sinning so nothing worse will happen to him.
  2. Command: Stop sinning against myself to cause physical, mental and spiritual illness.
  3. Promise: God is a healing God.
  4. Warning: If I don’t really want to be healed I could potentially stay in an unwell condition for life.
  5. Application: As I read this I wonder how many of us consider ourselves “sick”. I love that this passage doesn’t tell us what his specific sickness was or we might dwell on that. All that we know is that he had it for 38 years, and he blamed others for not helping him, or because others had a better opportunity than he did. He seemed to have accepted that this was his life. I noticed a difference between the others that Jesus healed because the others yelled for Jesus and begged for him to heal them, but this guy had Jesus approach him and ask him if he wanted to be healed. Why did he say that he couldn’t? Did he know who Jesus was? Then after he was healed Jesus found him in the temple and told him to stop sinning so something worse wouldn’t happen to him. This is also interesting because he doesn’t tell us what sin (again we would probably dwell on that). It seems he wanted us to understand that his sin contributed to or caused his illness. He didn’t want to choose healing, but Jesus gave it to him anyway, and once he had received it Jesus had to warn him that his continued sin was going to cause something worse. We don’t hear about whether or not he listened to Jesus. My challenge to myself is to take notice of things in my life that I suffer from, but don’t pursue wellness, and what am I doing to contribute to this condition. This could be physical, mental or spiritual health, or maybe even all of them combined.

The Power of Truth

  1. Message: In John 4 Jesus takes his disciples through Samaria. This was no-no territory for the Jews. They did not associate with the Samaritans and they hated them. And considered the unclean.Jesus went to a well and sent his disciples to get some food at a nearby village. It seems he set them off on this errand so he could have this encounter with the woman at the well. That encounter was so personal that it may not have gone well had the disciples been for it. It proved to be probably the most powerful encounter of any that we read about because even though Jesus didn’t perform a miraculous sign for this woman, like he had every other story, he got her attention when he revealed what he knew about her. She was so moved that she left her water at the well and told the village people about Jesus. When they heard her story they came to see for themselves and they believed.
  2. Promise: I can take Jesus at his word.
  3. Warning: Even if I ask for a sign, I won’t be fully convinced and will probably want another one just like the Jews.
  4. Application: I love this story because Jesus met the woman where she was and he didn’t deny her issues. He called them out right there and she didn’t get offended. Instead it drew her attention and her testimony  impacted the whole village without a single sign. Jesus was constantly slamming the Jews for wanting a sign in order to believe.  My challenge to myself is to take Jesus at his word and quit asking me to prove things to me. Her trust impacted an entire village! I wonder what my trust could do if I actually took him at his word!

Nick at Night

  1. Message:  Reading in John 3 we see a Pharisee named Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night, after the crowds were gone. I’ve heard this story speculated to say that he didn’t want anyone to see him or recognize him because he was ashamed, or afraid because he was a religious leader and the religious leaders were trying to take Jesus down. I can’t say for sure what the real reason was, but I wonder if he just wanted to have a one-on-one conversation with Jesus without the distraction of others to get his questions answered. Lots of Pharisees and other religious leaders came to ask questions, but the response they got was very different. Those that came in the day came with motives to try to trip Jesus up with his words because they had an agenda. We know this because Jesus saw right through their motives and answered them in a way that let them know that he knew. Some of the questions he refused to answer because he knew they were a set up. Something different was going on with Nicodemus. He asked questions with follow up questions with an attitude of learning and Jesus answered his questions.
  2. Command: Approach God humbly with an attitude and heart or learning and growth.
  3. Promise: God will answer genuine questions with a genuine answer.
  4. Warning: God sees the motive of our questions, and he will answer them according to our motives.
  5. Application: As I read this I thought about how we approach God and how we approach reading his word. Do we have a motive to prove something we already believe, or do we approach God humbly because we want to learn. I think this makes all of the difference when we study God’s word. Our approach will determine whether we elevate our pride and move further from him, or whether we approach humbly with our silliest sounding questions so that God can answer them. My challenge to myself is to read with fresh eyes. Instead of looking at ideas that have been preached, or sound the most church-like, I’m asking God to show me things in his word that are more obscure and teach me.