Not What He Asked For

Message: The paralyzed man at the temple gate was in his usual place doing his usual thing, begging for money from those who were entering the temple. When Peter and John came along and saw him in his usual place they did something very unusual. What he received was very different from what he was asking for. What he was asking for was not wrong. It was a temporary solution for a bigger problem. He was paralyzed and unable to work so he needed money to sustain himself. There was no government disability system to support this man and his physical disability put him at the mercy of people. The miracle he received changed his life forever, but it also deeply impacted all of the people that had known him and his condition all of his life. This got me realizing that the things I ask for are usually temporary solutions for bigger problems. This is not to say that God doesn’t meet practical needs. It’s just a reminder that sometimes God doesn’t answer those prayers because he is after something much bigger. Miracles are for HIS glory and what he did in this man’s life not only brought glory to God, but it deeply impacted a whole community.

Command: Ask for the practical things, but be prepared for a life change.

Promise: God cares about our practical needs, but he gets the most glory in transforming lives.

Warning: If I get caught up in the regular routines, asking for the routine things I become pigeon holed in my thinking and I miss the bigger things God wants to accomplish in my life. Sure, God wants to meet my needs, but he wants so much more than that. He wants to transform my life in a way that impacts everyone around me!

Application: This reminds me that God has bigger plans in mind than just providing the next meal or the next need. He wants to transform my life and the lives around me because that is what impacts more people. A hole community was impacted after seeing what God did in one man. What does he want to transform in my life?

The Promise of Power

Message: In Acts 1 there were 120 Jesus followers gathered and praying together in unity. The only instructions they had were to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the power of the Holy Spirit. They didn’t know what this meant or what it would look like. They just obeyed and united themselves together.

Command: Unite together in obedience to God’s direction and pray!!!

Promise: The promise to them was power through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It came through their unity in both obedience and prayer. The same promise to us is power through the Holy Spirit and that comes to us when we are united in our obedience to God and we are united in prayer.

Warning: You can’t have power without unity, or obedience and certainly not with prayer. If any of these things are missing the power has no means to flow through. We understand this concept with electronics. Something has to be plugged in, but it also has to be turned on and most likely it needs a command to be selected in order for that to function. The device will not work if only one or two of the three functions is activated. It absolutely needs all three! We are the same. We have to be obedient, united an

d in prayer together for the power to flow through us and function as it was intended.

Application: This is such a huge reminder to me that I can’t function by myself, I can’t function with disobedience and I certainly can’t function without prayer. God never intended to work through us as individuals. We are accountable as individuals but we weren’t intended to do this stuff alone. WE were called to be united in purpose, obedience and prayer. That is where the power comes from and not one of these elements can be missing from the equation.

Cooperate With the Plan

Message: In John 18 there was a lot of scripture fulfillment happening that looked otherwise to those living it. Judas betrayed Jesus according to plan and led the soldiers to where they were meeting. Even though the soldiers were thrown back by the power when Jesus simply said the words “I AM he” they were not deterred from their plans to destroy him because this was also God’s plan. There were so many other things fulfilled in this but when Peter cut off the slave’s ear it was both relatable and ridiculous. I related to the feeling he had that he needed to defend Jesus. He was all in but he cut off an ear??? I couldn’t help but laugh at the insignificance of the damage and yet Jesus healed it right then and there because this was not the plan. It felt like complete opposition to the disciples and Jesus was just going along with it all fulfilling both the past scriptures and the plan he was there to fulfill. I think we all view opposition as an attack from the enemy. It most certainly is, but we don’t consider that sometimes these attacks are part of the plan of God to USE the enemy to fulfill something else. If I am not careful I might be fighting against the plan of God in my small efforts to try to defend him.

Command: Listen to the voice of God. Not every opposition is unrighteous. It very well may be the plan of God and I need to cooperate with God.

Promise: If God allows opposition and I cooperate, there is a bigger victory ahead.

Warning: If I am caught up in the opposition I may miss what God is doing and find myself fighting against something better that God has.

Application: I have been thinking about this a lot lately because I see a pattern of thinking where we assume anything unpleasant that interrupts our plans, and even the plans we believe were ordained by God, we get upset and blame the devil. We fight against it and our impact is futile. We chop off an ear and God has to clean up behind us to keep the plan on track. Opposition is hard but it works character in us, but more importantly, it makes way for bigger plans that God has in mind. Things we don’t see or understand. I think we see with 20/20 after the fact when we start piecing the clues together. Lord Jesus, help me to view things with your lens. Open my eyes to the things I might be fighting against that you planned for my good. Help me Lord to cooperate with your will.

Open My Eyes

Message: John 17 is a powerful prayer  That Jesus prayed when he had completed everything he was supposed to do on the earth and was headed for the final act of obedience on the cross. Whether the disciples knew it or not, he had equipped them with EVERYTHING they needed after his death. They were lost and confused in the moment but it would all come together once Jesus died and resurrected, and more importantly after they would receive the Holy Spirit. I am getting ahead of things right now, but that is because I’m looking at the disciples in their state of confusion while seeing Jesus speak these powerful words. They didn’t feel ready and they sure didn’t look ready, but Jesus prepared them and equipped them. It was time for their eyes to be opened to understand all of the ground work that had been laid. I relate to this because there are so many things in life that I feel like I’m waiting on God to do, but he has already done it. He has already spoken it, and he has already prepared me for it. I just need my spiritual eyes to be opened so I can see what he has already done around me. Jesus prayed for him and he prayed for us for that very reason.

Command: I need to stop looking for God to take action and instead ask God to open my spiritual eyes to see what he has done and what he has prepared me for. Even when I don’t look or feel ready!

Promise: When God does things, he does them with precision and extreme detail.

Warning: If I am looking at things with my natural eyes I will miss the groundwork that has already been laid out. I will feel lost and unsure.

Application: As I read this I was thankful that Jesus prayed for them and for us. He did all of the work and he just needs our spiritual eyes to be opened to see it so we can get on board. This reminds me that I need to step back from the circumstances I am dwelling on and ask God to open my eyes and reveal his plan.

Support the Vision

Message: In Exodus 35 the people of Israel began the huge project of building a sanctuary for the Lord. It started out with everyone contributing offerings of the needed supplies and then the skilled workers for each thing used those supplies to craft the detailed work with precision according to God’s instructions. To me this was a beautiful picture of the body of Christ working together to build the things that God has prescribed. Moses carried the vision. Not HIS vision but the very specific details that God gave to him to carry out. He cast the vision to the people and the people came with their offerings and their abilities. All of the things that were donated were common items that belonged to the people, but then they were offered to God and skillfully crafted, it became a holy place sanctified and set apart.

Command: My offerings and my skills have a purpose for the kingdom of God. Not for the vision of man, but for God’s vision cast through the leaders God has put in my life.

Promise: God will bless what I contribute and sanctify it.

Warning: If I am building my own thing it will not be blessed and sanctified.

Application: This reminds me that I need to evaluate the things I am devoting my time to. When I am responding to the vision God put in place my resources and skills will be used efficiently. If I am off doing my own thing it will not be blessed by God and I might find myself spinning my wheels to accomplish something God never asked me to do. There may be some areas that I just need to support the vision that God has already put into place with skilled workers. I don’t need to create a new thing on my own. I need to support the vision God already put into place.

The Joyful Gardener

Message: Jesus gave us a visual picture of what it means to “remain in him”. He describes himself as the vine, us as the branches and the Father has the vineyard keeper. The branches that don’t produce fruit are removed, and the branches that are producing fruit are pruned so that they produce even more fruit. We all understand that branches can’t be sustained on their own if they are cut off from the main source. Fresh cut flowers are very beautiful for a few days and then they dry out and die because they are no longer connected to the source for life sustaining nutrients. This is why Jesus commanded us to remain in him. We need to stay connected to the source in order to live and produce fruit.

Command: Remain connected to the vine and produce fruit!

Promise: If we are connected to the source we will not only be sustained by him, but we will produce fruit and as an added bonus, we can ask whatever we want and it will be done.

Warning: If we are disconnected from him, we won’t produce fruit, and we will eventually wither and dry out.

Application: This reminds me of the importance of staying connected by reading his word and praying. I thought about how those fresh cut flowers look beautiful and healthy for a short time. Sometimes we can appear to be thriving for a short time even when disconnected. This doesn’t mean we are actually thriving, it just means that the death process can’t be seen from the outside quite yet, but it began as soon as those branches were cut. I need his word every day of my life and it’s not enough to read just enough to be kept alive. I need to be reading and applying it to my life every day so that I am producing fruit. I think there is a tendency to feel like we are being punished when God prunes us. We start scrambling to look for reasons but it states very clearly here that those who are producing fruit will be pruned so that we can produce more fruit. Healthier fruit. This is not a punishment. God has to prune out things from our lives that are sucking all of the healthy resources out of us. We need those resources to go to areas that will produce fruit. I also love to think about the Father as the gardener. I have never once seen an angry gardener hacking away at plants with rage. I have only ever seen gardeners who walk peacefully into their gardens with pride and joy as they admire their beautiful work. They trim a little here and there, and there are definitely seasons where they prune things way back so that it will protect the garden from the weather in the next season. This reminds me that God is the joyful gardener in my life and as long as I remain connected to Jesus, walking in obedience and producing fruit he will tend to my branches with so much pride and joy.

The Object of My Worship

Message: We instinctively know that we were created to submit to God. The desire is built into us by design. The problem is when there is no relationship established that built-in instinct has the capacity to turn to anything in an attempt to fulfill itself. When Moses went to the mountain to meet with God it was right after God had revealed just a part of himself to the people in the form of thunder. The people didn’t like it and they told Moses “YOU talk to God Moses, and we’ll stay here and do as you say.” This is LITERALLY what Moses was doing, but when he was gone longer than expected the people grew restless and anxious. They had the instinct to acknowledge God and celebrate and make sacrifices, but they had no personal connected relationship with God. So they told Aaron to “make” them a god and they didn’t seem to care what it was. Aaron made no arguments with them and promptly told them to give him their gold earrings. He melted it down and fashioned it into a calf with an engraving tool. Then the people said “This is your God who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”. Aaron took it a step further and built them an altar and announced that there would be a festival in the morning. It blows my mind when Moses comes back and Aaron tries to act like the people coerced him!

Command: I need relationship and connection with God.

Promise: When I am connected to God my obedience comes out of the relationship.

Warning: If I am not connected to God I will seek to fulfill religious obligations without a heart connection or any kind of change or growth.

Application: The example of the Israelites seems so extreme that is seems hard to relate to. I certainly wouldn’t create a golden calf and worship it,  but I am definitely capable of the type of disconnect from God that would allow me to practice religious rituals in place of my genuine worship to God. I have definitely experienced this kind of disconnect before and caught myself going through motions and if kept unchecked it can drift to a dangerous place where God is no longer the object of my worship. Morality or religion takes his place. This reminds me that even when hearing God speak is intimidating or overwhelming, I need to run toward him and not away from him so that I am connected closely.

Washing With the Word

Message: This morning I saw something in John 13 a little differently than I had ever seen before when I read about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. I feel like it’s an act that we struggle to understand clearly because it’s not part of our regular culture. The only thing I can even partially relate it to is going camping and how important it is to take off your shoes and clean up a bit before going into the tent where you’ll be sleeping because you don’t want to track in all of the mud, dirt and debris where you’ll be sleeping. It’s something you have to be very careful and conscious about so even at night when you’re sleeping and you have to get up to use the bathroom  you have to do all of that again even in the middle of the night just for a quick trip outside to pee so you don’t bring all of the outside dirt into your tent. This was a practical and relatable comparison for them because this was how they had to live their regular lives in order to keep their dwelling places clean. They didn’t have cleanly paved roads and sidewalks, or clean landscaping so every time they stepped out of their homes they walked through “it”.  The “it” was everything from dirt and mud to horse and donkey poop.

As I was reading chapter 13, I paused on the conversation that Jesus had with Peter. Peter was completely objected to Jesus washing his feet. He went as far as to say “you will NEVER wash my feet- EVER!” I thought about the intimacy of this act and how uncomfortable it was. This was vulnerable to them, and when Jesus did this he laid aside his Rabbi robe of dignity and respect, and put a towel around his waste like a servant. I think we all understand the significance of the servant, but not until today did I ever really understand WHY the servant role was so important to this application here until I caught verses 10 and 11. After Peter objected to Jesus washing his feet and Jesus told him that without it he could have no part in him, Peter swung the pendulum completely in the opposite direction and told Jesus, wash EVERYthing! Not just my feet, but my hands and my head too! In verse 10 Jesus said “one who has bathed doesn’t need to wash anything except for his feet, but he is completely clean. Then he said “you are clean but not ALL of you. Verse 11 clarifies that here he was referring to them all as a whole that are clean, and that Judas was the part of them that was not clean because Jesus knew he was about to betray him. After this statement something deeper clicked as I realized that the act of washing each other’s feet was not JUST an act of servanthood and humility. It is literally the act of helping each other wash each other in the word to remove all of the sin and the junk that wants to attach to us as we walk through life. This is something we have to stay on top of regularly so we don’t track all of that junk into our dwelling places, neither our personal dwelling places (out tents) or our family dwelling places but also the dwelling place of our spiritual families. Cleaning up life and sin issues is very vulnerable and uncomfortable, and it takes a lot of humility to even have the right to be able to do this with each other. Without that servant heart and humility we will not be able to do this effectively and Jesus was the ultimate example of this.

Command: Serve each other by washing each other’s unclean parts in the word of God. This takes an incredible amount of vulnerability and humility to help each other remove the debris that tries to stay with us as we walk through the issues of life. When we’re intimate with each other in this way we wash away attitudes, mindsets, offenses and sin issues with the word applied in a gentle but very deliberate way. We would not come in aggressively and knock people over and begin to scrub them with the towel. I also see a relation to the scripture In Ephesians 5:26 where the husband is told to sanctify his wife by washing her with the “water of the word”. We NEED the word of God as the essential part of the cleansing. We can NOT council or help people without the word used appropriately and in proper context and application!! Imagine coming in with a dry towel and trying to dry exfoliate someone! Not only would it not fully wash clean but it would severely irritate the skin.

Promise: If we follow the example of Jesus and HUMBLY wash each other clean with the water of the WORD we not only cleanse them but we cleanse ourselves as a whole.

Warning: If we are not humble we will not cleanse, but we will irritate instead. If we do not use the water of the word to cleanse we can and will injure people!

Application: This really sunk in for me at a deeper level today and I see myself on both sides of this. I have a responsibility to wash my unclean parts and not drag around the sin and junk I walk through. This is not only a daily part of life, but a constant throughout the day maintenance. I am also accountable to and for those I am in relationship with. I need to be vulnerable and humble enough to allow others to cleanse me with the word of God as  I also use the word of God to wash others. I can’t wash anyone without the word of God and this can’t be done without humility.

Backwards & Reverse

Message: Jesus spoke of the grain of wheat in the field saying “unless a grain of wheat  falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself.” But if it dies it produces a large crop. The one who loves his life will lose it and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” This sounds like backwards-reverse language but it’s not something you can psychologically do to gain. You can’t fake it. You have to literally come to a place where your passion and drive is no longer to make yourself known and successful, but to make Jesus known and his kingdom successful. When we do this authentically we gain everything because of the mind shift. Much of this gain will be on an eternal level and not here on this earth, but the fulfillment we previously thought we would get from success comes when we fulfill our purpose. It’s not a trick. It’s a shift of focus to what actually matters.

Command: Die to my own desires for self-preservation and self promotion.

Promise: I will be fulfilled more by living out my purpose than I ever would by trying to attain the successes of life.

Warning: If I am chasing after the successes of life instead of my purpose, I will turn up empty.

Application: This is not to say that we shouldn’t strive to be successful and achieve goals. It’s talking about what drives us in life. This reminds me that my very motives for everything I do should be to make him known and to increase the kingdom of God. When those things are in proper order I am fulfilled in my purpose and the secondary reward is that I can’t help but be successful because walking in obedience to God just does that. This can’t be faked or manipulated because character (or the lack of) will be exposed and God is not fooled. There will be fruit to show for whether it is good fruit or bad fruit and the fruit doesn’t lie.

Run Like Martha

Message: As I read John 11 I really paid attention to what was going on with Mary. We previously read how Martha was caught up in serving and was frustrated with Mary for sitting at the feet of Jesus instead of helping. When Martha complained to Jesus and asked him to instruct her to help, Jesus had told Martha that she was doing the best thing and he would not take that from her. Now here we are a few chapters later and their brother Lazarus had died. They had put the word out to Jesus, and Jesus stayed where he was for two more days before starting the journey there, so when he got there Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. When Jesus came into town, it was Martha who ran to greet him, but Mary heard he was there and remained sitting in the house. It’s not that Martha wasn’t upset with Jesus. She came boldly toward him with her accusation that if he had only been there sooner he wouldn’t have died. Her expectations were not met and she was not hiding it. Mary, on the other hand, withdrew and stayed inside when Jesus showed up. It was not until he called for her that she got up and ran to him.

Command: It’s ok to not understand when things don’t go the way I expect them to, but that is not the time to withdraw from Jesus. I need to run toward him with all of the hurt, but then allow him to speak to me about it.

Promise: I may not understand what God is doing or allowing un my life, but if I run toward him instead of withdrawing from him he will show me things I would have never known were possible.

Warning: If I withdraw from Jesus in my disappointment, I miss the opportunity to lean in close and learn what he is doing in my life. Instead I could be sitting in my place of pain, confusion and withdrawal for a long time with no more understanding.

Application: I actually saw myself in both Mary and Martha in this story. There are times I have run to Jesus just like Martha did and voiced all of my hurt and anguish and found comfort in understanding that I don’t have to understand, but he will comfort me. I found it interesting and beautiful that he wept with them before he performed this incredible miracle. He grieved with them because of his compassion for them even though he KNEW what he was about to do. I have also been Mary who got caught up in the disappointment that things did not go the way I had hoped they would. Not only were my expectations not met, but it seemed like a permanent situation with no possibility of turning around. Mary and Martha had expected to see Jesus HEAL Lazarus to PREVENT his death, and when it didn’t happen they were devastated because they had never fathomed the idea that he would be resurrected.  Even as I write this I realize that not every story is a Lazarus resurrection kind of story. The point here is that Jesus had a plan here that nobody thought was possible. He cares about our pain and our disappointment but he wants us to trust him during the vulnerability of our pain and disappointment so that he can work miracles in our lives.

Stranger Danger

Message: We have lots of things in this world competing to rule over us and trying to lure us in to follow other voices. They don’t lead us from the heart though because they don’t HAVE a heart for us. They are self serving and they try to entice us to follow it’s voices in other ways.  When we do we are led into dangerous territory, and when trouble comes we are abandoned and left exposed and on our own. Jesus compared those voices to a hired servant who does not enter the sheep pen legitimately, but comes in through another way. Jesus called them a robber and a thief. He does not care about the sheep. He leads them into dangerous territory and then abandons the sheep when the wolf comes. Jesus is our shepherd and has the only legitimate access to the sheep pen because he IS the door of access. We recognize his voice because he loves us and leads us into safe pasture where he watches over us. He will never abandon us or leave us vulnerable to the wolf because his love is real and sacrificial. Instead, he laid his own life down to save us all.

Command: Pay attention to the source of the voices that are competing to lead me. What are the motives and where are they leading me into.

Promise: Jesus will NEVER abandon me! He ha sacrificed his own life to save me so I can be assured with complete confidence that wherever he leads me is for my good and he will protect me if I heed to HIS voice.

Warning: If I run away and follow the lead of the wrong voices I leave the safety of the sheep fold where I will be abandoned by the voice that led me away and will be left exposed.

Application: This is such a huge reminder that I need to pay attention to the allure of the voices trying to pull me away. If I listen carefully I will recognize the difference in the sound of the voice of MY shepherd and will not be fooled by the voice of a stranger.

Ignorance vs Rejection of Truth

Message: Once again I find John chapter 9 both fascinating and maddening! I think it’s interesting that in this story the blind man was just minding his own business and not asking for a thing! It was the disciples that provoked things by asking Jesus whether the man’s blindness came from sin of his own or from his parents. They were passing by the man during the conversation so I’m visualizing this sort of rude exchange of talking about him as if he couldn’t hear them or understand them- or worse, as if he didn’t matter. We may not have all of the details here, but it doesn’t look like there is any sort of conversation with the man at all and the man couldn’t see anything, and then suddenly there is a spit mud paste on his eyes and a voice telling him to go wash it off in the pool of Siloam. There are no more words exchanged. No offers to help the man get to the pool and no arguments from the man whatsoever. It just says that he left, washed and came back seeing. This man’s obedience without question gave him his healing. The healing was so transforming that people who had known him and seen him his entire life didn’t recognize him and they debated about it. What happens next is both frustrating and hilarious. This man is put on blast and questioned repeatedly about Jesus and his healing as if he was being interrogated for a crime. Even his parents were questioned but they wanted nothing to do with it. The man was not even a disciple of Jesus but the more he was questioned the more he started putting things together and stating the complete obvious, he spoke the truth as clear as could be right to the Pharisees and exposed their own blindness. What fascinates me here is that when their blindness was exposed they tried to flip it back onto the man by mocking him for trying to teach them and accusing him of being full of sin from birth. It’s funny that they asked all of the questions but didn’t like it when the man had some intelligent things to say. But Jesus set the record straight and by the end of the chapter it becomes clear that they weren’t ignorant to the details. In fact, what they spoke clearly identified that saw it all very clearly, but they  didn’t want to accept what they saw and were CHOOSING ignorance. Looking back to other things I can see this same pattern where you can tell that they were putting it all together and even understood more clearly than the disciples of Jesus. What they knew and understood didn’t match what they wanted so they rejected it. This is far more dangerous than simple ignorance because we are accountable for what we know and understand because it becomes a deliberate decision of disobedience.

Command: I can’t hide behind ignorance and expect grace to cover it. I am accountable for what I know and for my deliberate decision to ignore truth and disobey God.

Promise: God rewards my initial obedience, and he expands my understanding AFTER I take that first step whether I understand it or not.

Warning: If I choose to argue with the truth and rebel against it, I not only lose the reward of obedience, but I am also condemned by my choice to reject the truth.

Application: This brought to mind so many times where I know I went from a place of true ignorance, to a place where the facts were clearly presented in front of me and I had to make a conscience choice about what I was going to do with that information. Sometimes truth brings an inconvenience, but sometimes it requires an overhaul in my life that I don’t want to face. Sometimes God is giving me ONE step of obedience and I want 5 confirmations and the game plan laid out in front of me before I am willing to even consider that step. This is not obedience and it robs me of all that God has in store. More often than not, I think I am waiting on God to move, but he is waiting for my obedience. Lord please deliver me from this mindset and help me to walk out obedience without question like the blind man did. I don’t have to understand how it will all play out. I only need to understand that YOU are good and whatever you are asking me to do is for good-even if it has uncomfortable consequences that don’t line up with what I have in mind.

Go and Sin No More

Message: John 8 is both fascinating and maddening to read. When Jesus went to the temple complex to teach and they brought the woman caught in adultery the intent was to corner Jesus by using the law which called for the woman to be stoned to death. Jesus in all of his wisdom did not deny the law, but what he did do was set straight the application of it. The law was created by God and it was given and applied by Moses, who was obedient to God. Jesus was confirming the truth of the law, but also exposing them for their sin and lack of obedience. They were not qualified to call for this woman’s punishment by the law because they were in sin and disobedience. Jesus however, had every right to and he made a giant statement by refusing to do so. He eliminated the entire crowd of accusers with one challenge that only he could fulfill, and when they had all gone he told her “neither do I condemn you.” This was foreshadowing of the great pardoning of sin that was about to come to us all through him. We can all be rightfully charged for our sin, but Jesus paid the punishment of death on our behalf. Jesus ended this on one important note. He told the woman to go and “sin no more”. This is a critical part of the story that we very seldom hear people talk about. We love hearing Jesus say “He who has no sin cast the first stone” and we love hearing Jesus say “neither do I condemn you” but we have a harder time celebrating “go and sin no more.” This wasn’t an implication that she would live a prefect life, but he was charging her to stop living a life of sin and disobedience.

Command: God expects me to live my life committed to him in obedience.

Promise: God doesn’t condemn me and he already paid the penalty for my sin!

Warning: If I willfully continue living life on my terms I can also expect to be held accountable.

Application: This story goes several directions depending on which place I am standing on. When I am in place of the accusers I can expect Jesus to remind me that I have no grounds to accuse anyone else because I am not free from guilt. When I stand in place of the woman I can expect Jesus to tell me that he doesn’t condemn me and to “go and sin no more”. When we truly understand the freedom we have when Jesus releases us from punishment, we are less prone to shake our fists at others. For me the huge take away is that I need to pursue a life of obedience to him. This is not perfection because nobody expect Jesus could accomplish this, but living a life that doesn’t excuse sin and doesn’t willingly walk in it.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Message: John 7 shows the division between religion and revelation and in chapter 7 it literally starts close to home with his brothers. I found it interesting to see his brothers advising Jesus here because we don’t see a lot of that in the bible. Their advice to him was to show up and blow up at the Jewish festival where everyone would be. They told him “no one does anything in secret while he’s seeking public recognition. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” The big “IF” in that statement is very telling of their questioning suspicion, but verse 5 clarifies to us that not even his brothers believed in him and it seems they were challenging him to prove himself. Chapter 7 gives the impression that the people were buzzing about Jesus everywhere and they were torn between what they saw and what they believed and they couldn’t seem to reconcile the two. They were amazed by the signs and they were amazed by his teaching. He not only knew the scriptures that only their Rabbis were trained to know and memorize, but he interpreted them with so much boldness and authority and he called out their hypocrisy with so much audacity- almost like they were his own words right?? This caused a big rift between them all- some of them calling him divine and others calling him demonic. They liked the Jesus that performed miracles and wowed the crowd, but they were offended by Jesus who used scripture to reveal the condition of their hearts. Not much has changed today! My offense toward God’s word reveals the condition of my own heart, and my desire to ask God to “prove himself” by showing me signs is revealing of my unbelief. The truth is, they had all of the evidence they could have ever needed right in front of them. It was seemingly hiding in plain sight, but their personal biases prevented them from accepting it.

Command: When I struggle to believe God, I need to examine my personal biases.

Promise: God is not hiding. He is hidden in plain sight and I will see him if I am willing to silence my own personal biases and expectations of who I want him to be.

Warning: As long as I filter truth through my own personal biases and expectations, God will remain hidden from me and I won’t be able to see him right in front of me.

Application: It’s so easy to judge the Jews for missing their own Messiah, but how much do I do this in my own life? Because of my own expectations and desires I have often credited the works of God to Satan because it didn’t happen in a way that I wanted it to happen. It may have looked like opposition, adversity or correction, and I wanted a feel-good miracle. When I don’t see or recognize God, it’s not because God is hiding from me, it’s because I am blinded by my own ideas, perceptions, expectations and biases. That’s a lot of camouflage to see through so it’s no wonder when I can’t see God. This reminds me of the importance of laying down my own ideas, perceptions, desires and biases so I can see God who promised he would never leave me or forsake me. Lord, Jesus, please deliver me from myself and the things in my heart that cloud my view of you so that no matter what I am facing, I can see you working in my life. Help me to cooperate with your plans instead of fighting against them!

I Pity the Fool!

Message: Proverbs 26 has quite a bit to say about the fool. As I was reading it, it occurred to me how much I read that and think it’s about other people. Nobody wants to be “that guy”, yet we all have a bit of that guy’s tendencies in us. I hope not to be ever classified as a fool, but I need to take notice of what God calls foolish and eliminate those behaviors out of my life. According to chapter 26 a fool is wise in his own eyes so therefore he rejects the wisdom and council of God in his life and insists on doing things his own way. I wish I could say I have never done that, but I definitely have. Verse 7 compares a proverb in the mouth of a fool to having legs that are paralyzed and just hang. There are so many implications to this (and by the way this is not a jab at handicapped people by any means) but it helps us to understand that we were created with purpose and if we don’t do what we were created to do it is the equivalent of  being a body part that doesn’t function. Not only that but verses 8 and 9 tell us that giving honor to a fool is like flinging a stone in a sling shot and that a proverb in the mouth of a fool is like receiving a beating with a stick from a drunk person. Verse 10 tells us that hiring a fool is like and archer that wounds everyone. What I get from this is that being a fool is not just a danger to themselves, but their behavior becomes reckless and dangerous to everyone they encounter. What is a fool? Anyone who ignores the council of God, lives unchecked and refuses to be accountable for it. There are areas of my life that I have been very disciplined and accountable, but there are also areas of my life where I have lived like I know what is best and not only refused to be accountable, but also refused to even accept or acknowledge it. What’s worse than a fool? A blind and reckless fool!

Command: Stop making decisions without consulting with God! Even in the things that seem right, I need to consult God and his word in everything because only a fool assumes they are right and are blinded my their pride.

Promise: If I consult God and his word in everything, God will walk with me and for me even if I get it wrong. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble so even if I misunderstand God’s instructions and mess things up, there is grace for me because I have not intentionally hardened my heart and turned from his council.

Warning: If I refuse to humble myself and seek God in my decisions, not only will I be accountable for the outcome, but I will also damage others but be too blind to see it.

Application: This is a really hard word, and nobody likes to identify as a fool, but when I read this it hit me that only a fool will read this warning and assume it is for someone else. Only a fool will read this and refuse to examine the rebellion of their own heart, and only a fool will be too blind to realize who they are. I would rather be corrected for my mistakes and misinterpretations than to pretend I am right and be considered a fool. I might be able to fool myself and sometimes others too, but I can’t fool God. He knows the motives of my heart and he sees the pride that I am blind to. Lord, Jesus, please reveal to me the areas where I am stubbornly walking out my own way because I think it’s right. Please heal my spiritual blindness and help me to humble my own heart before you have to do it for me. I thank you that you are kind and good to us when we make mistakes, so there is no reason for me to pretend with you.

Answer the Right Questions

Message: I’ve read the story in John 5 about the man by the pool of Bethesda quite a few times and I’ve heard plenty of sermons on it as well. The common theme here is that some people just don’t want to get well. They have become too familiar with their issues and have allowed them to become an identity for them. There are so many directions this can go but what stuck out to me a little bit differently as I read it today is that the man answered the wrong question entirely. Jesus asked him plain and simple “Do you want to be well?” and the man answered a long pitiful and defensive answer about WHY he believed he COULDN’T be well. In all fairness, he probably didn’t know who he was speaking with, but either way, he still dodged the question by answering with his excuses. I can’t help but wonder if he would have responded differently had Jesus asked him if he would like some money. It was a simple yes or no question and he was over complicating it. I usually kind of pass by this story feeling like it’s a story about other people, but as I examine this today I see that we all have that in us in one area or another. For this man it was a physical condition (but probably plenty of emotional ones attached also). In my life I see this in other areas where I don’t want to answer because I am afraid it will require some accountability that I’m not ready to answer for. It very much does, but if I am aware of WHO is doing the asking, and more importantly, if I understand that the question is a simple one- do I want it? Not why haven’t you? If I will just answer the first simple question with an emphatic yes, then Jesus can show me the way that I don’t even know exists. The man by the pool of Bethesda was hung up on getting in the pool first because in his mind that was the only way to healing. He had no idea who Jesus was and what he was capable of, but if Jesus hadn’t pressed him further, he would have answered the wrong question and never received his healing.

Command: Answer the question being asked, not the one you hope to divert to.

Promise: If I answer the question being asked it opens opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise even know exist.

Warning: If I answer the wrong questions I remain stuck.

Application: This is easier said than done because our minds are so deceptive and capable of blinding us, but it challenges me to ask the deeper questions of myself. It reminds me that the next time I am tempted to rattle off excuses or answer with a different answer that I may be stuck and trying to remain stuck. If I want to heal and grow I need to be willing to face the things I would rather ignore, or be held accountable for things I’m not ready to do. But if Jesus is asking, he is not asking to condemn me but to heal me. Lord Jesus, unveil my eyes to see the areas of my life I haven’t received healing in because I have guarded my progress with excuses. Help me to desire healing more than identity or comfort. Help me to answer the right questions so I can be healed.

Satisfaction

Message: I saw a huge contrast in John 4 between those who believed Jesus at his word and those who believed because of the signs. When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman I thought it was interesting that he first asked HER for something. A drink of water- before telling her that he had an unlimited supply. She had follow up questions but was open and not sceptic. Because of this Jesus revealed himself to her as the Messiah very bluntly because she acknowledged that she knew a Messiah was coming. Jesus didn’t do that with anyone else and the cool thing is that she was a Samaritan woman. Someone the Jews would never associate with. She ran and told her village and shared her testimony and they believed her at her word too. Then when they actually met Jesus for themselves they said “we no longer believe because of what you (the woman) said, for now we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the savior of the world. They believed because of what they heard and not what they saw and this is HUGE. I didn’t realize just how huge this was until it occurred to me that all of the people who saw Jesus do signs and miracles are the very same people that turned on him when he wasn’t the kind of Messiah they were expecting and crucified him for it!

Another thing that stood out to me in here is that the disciples knew Jesus hadn’t eaten and were trying to get him to eat. He was telling them that he had “food” that they didn’t know of- and that his “food” was to do the will of God and to finish his work. We all understand that food satisfies an appetite or craving so Jesus is telling us here that our appetites can be satisfied by doing the will of God.

Command: Fulfill the will of God in my life!

Promise: When I fulfill the will of God in my life I find complete satisfaction in Him. Far more satisfaction than anything the flesh could possibly desire.

Warning: If I am trying to fulfill my desires by any other means I will not find it and if I am waiting on God to do something for me or show me something I will absolutely miss it!

Application: This reminds me that the long mental list of things I am hoping God will fix or change is not what will finally satisfy my soul. When my focus is on doing the will of God in my life it brings a satisfaction that nobody can steal.

Renewed Vision

Message: In John 3 a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and acknowledged that Jesus had to have come from God as a teacher because nobody could perform those signs unless they were from God. A few things I found interesting here: First, he came at night to say this to Jesus, when normally the Pharisees showed up publicly in the day and challenged Jesus with questions that were setup in the hopes of discrediting him. This was a private conversation which indicates it must have been somewhat genuine. The next thing I found interesting is that he said “we” know that you came from God. I wonder who the “we” was if he came alone. Was this proof that the Pharisees really did believe Jesus was a valid teacher? If so their actions against him were worse than just plain ignorance but I’m not in the place of judgment. It’s just interesting. The third thing I found interesting and more profound was that rather than confirming that he did in fact come from God,  Jesus told him that that what he was verbalizing could only really be seen and understood by being born again and that the flesh can only observe the flesh and does not comprehend spiritual things. It took me back to the beginning of Exodus when Moses performed signs from God, and the magicians and sorcerers were able to mimic some of those things. It seems to me like this was a caution that signs are not an appropriate way to recognize that someone is authentically from God. The last thing I found interesting (for now) is that Nicodemus was acknowledging that Jesus was a teacher from God, but he wasn’t acknowledging that Jesus WAS God because he didn’t discern that. We know that Peter did though because back when Jesus asked them “whom do people say I am? And whom do YOU say I am? Peter blurted out that he was the Messiah and Jesus told him that flesh and blood did not reveal that to him. That was revealed only by the father. The point in here is that if we aren’t born again (if our minds are not renewed) then we can’t discern spiritual things and we will not understand them. We will only see things with our fleshly humanistic views. When we are born again and are asking God to renew our minds (this is a daily and sometimes moment by moment thing) we will be able to see things that the unsaved world can’t see or understand. This is why Nicodemus struggled so hard with the whole idea of being born again. His fleshly mind could only perceive the flesh and it made no sense to him.

Command: Renew my mind constantly so that I can see beyond the obvious view of the flesh. I will never understand all that God is doing but I will be able to see the hand of God doing things that the unrenewed mind doesn’t see.

Promise: When I renew my mind I will be able to see the hidden things God wants me to see and it will give me insight to pray.

Warning: If my mind is not renewed I will only be able to see what is in front of me and I will miss the spiritual context.

Application: This is such a powerful reminder that God has chosen us to partner with him. He wants me to pray his will and I can’t do that if my mind is not renewed. My fleshly mind wants to pray for situations based on what I see and think is best but a renewed mind allows me to see other possibilities and it provokes me to stop trying to dictate God in my prayers and instead inquire of Him to show me his will so that I can pray in it.

Glass of Ordinary

Message: When Jesus performed his first miracle it was not in his plan at all. In fact he clearly told his mother it wasn’t his time yet but to honor her he did. He told the servants to fill the water container full of water. Not just any contained but it was the container they used for ceremonially washing their hands. It was a jar set apart for that purpose, but what he poured in it was ordinary water. There was nothing special about that water until it was poured out into the glasses. That’s where the miracle happened and not until then.

Command: I need to pour my life out in my most ordinary, authentic and real form.

Promise: The miracle happens when I pour my ordinary self into another vessel and watch it change!

Warning: If I leave my ordinary self sitting in the vessel it never has the opportunity to transform into anything. It remains ordinary just sitting and waiting to be offered. If I wait for something miraculous to happen before I am willing to pour myself out into that vessel I (and they) will miss the miracle that happens only from the outpouring of my ordinary self.

Application: This reminds me that I am not here to impress anyone and the miracle doesn’t happen until I pour myself into someone else. When Jesus filled that vessel of ordinary water it became something extraordinary- but not until they poured it out. It had to have looked ridiculous looking at that container that they KNEW was just full of ordinary water and the amazement they most have experienced when it was poured out as fresh wine. People need my ordinary self so I can’t be consumed with trying to create that miracle in myself first. It won’t happen because the miracle is in my obedience.

Take a Step Closer

Message: In Exodus 20 Moses gave the ten commandments to the people. The people saw the thunder and lightning and smoke around the mountain and it terrified them and they stood back at us distance. They told Moses “you speak to us and we will listen, but don’t let God speak to us or we will die.” I couldn’t help but think about the hardness of heart that they had and wonder if it had something to do with their disconnection with God. It’s difficult to comprehend the love of God if we’re not also willing to face the severity of God.

Command: Don’t distance myself from God when he feels intense. Face him in the discomfort and press in a little closer.

Promise: If I face God when it’s hard and not flinch or look away during the discomfort, I will be able to also experience his love and his kindness because God is not one without the other.

Warning: If I am unwilling to face God when it’s hard, I will not be able to fully understand or experience his love and kindness.

Application: Lord Jesus, help me to look at you face to face when I examine my heart. Show me the contents of my heart no matter how uncomfortable it is and how much I want to justify it away. Thank you for giving me the grace to change those things and take another step closer to you when I do.