Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Finished Work of the Cross

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 19:23-42

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19:30 (NKJV)

At the center of our faith is the Cross. Ground Zero for our relationship with God is this Roman implement of cruel death. The Cross represents God's undying desire to REDEEM. The Cross is the picture of God's love in action forgiving, cleansing, and accepting sinners.

We could talk much about the meaning of the Cross. Such a study is worthy of our highest efforts to better understand what God has done for us in Christ. There are many powerful facets to this miraculous event. On the Cross, Jesus is the last Adam, He is the second man, He is the love of the Father, He is our penal substitute, He is the ransom for sin, He is our conquering King!

John, the beloved disciple, records for us a powerful glimpse into this great redemption. He tells us that Jesus' final words were, "It is finished." As death closed upon Him and He finally accepted the anesthetic work of the sour wine, He knew that a GREAT WORK had been accomplished. Something had ended. And something else began.

Many consider the preaching of the Cross to be laden with calls for self-sacrifice, for dying to self, and for giving it all up for Jesus. The Cross is more than death to self. The Cross is where condemnation stops. The Cross is where Satan loses his power. The Cross is where sin no longer has control. The Cross is where Jesus says, "It is finished." The Cross is the picture of the completed work of redemption. There is nothing we can add to the Cross. We can only accept the pure work of redeeming grace. "IT IS FINISHED!"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Eye of the Storm

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage John 18:25-19:22 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 18:37 (NKJV) We read today about Jesus ON TRIAL. He was brought before those who hated Him, disbelieved Him, and sought to tear Him down. Under examination He was challenged concerning His identity and His calling. By no means does our experience measure up in intensity to that which Jesus faced, but we do however face the same challenges - the same destructive attack. We too are challenged concerning our true identity and our original, foundational calling. They asked Jesus WHO HE WAS. They asked Him what He was CALLED TO DO. His answer was crystal clear. Jesus KNEW what the Father had sent Him to do. His answer said in essence, "This is what I was born to do." So, let me ask you. Have you found your divine purpose? Have you discovered the very idea God had in mind when He created you? Can you say it clearly? Your identity and your calling are the most sacred part of you. It is a divine trust. It will be attacked. Satan will seek to deface it. It is the eye of the storm. It will always be the center of spiritual warfare over your life. It is the object of Christ's restoring work in you. So, ask God today to renew a deep awareness in you of that unique calling He has placed on your life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Safest Place

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage John 18:1-24 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. John 18:15 (NKJV) Most people know about Peter and how he denied the Lord three times on the night of the betrayal. This was a very dark chapter in Peter's story. People often do not realize that there was another disciple present that night and that disciple DID NOT deny the Lord. This other disciple was none other than John, the beloved disciple. When others pulled away, John drew close. When others lagged behind, he pursued even closer. There is an important lesson here for us. Peter ended up in potential trouble because he followed at a distance. It left him open to the questions of the curious bystander. It led him to compromise. John stayed close. When trouble came, he got closer to Jesus. Therefore, the questions of the crowd were never directed at him. His identity was already settled and he did not have to explain it to those who would attack him. I believe the safest place in the world is the path of radical discipleship. It is the place where we follow the Lord no matter what happens. Though He is always leading in "life and death" experiences (the Cross!), yet we are covered and cared for under the shadow of His Person. It's the safest place.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A New Kind of Love

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 13:31-14:14

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another....Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me."  John 13:34-35 and 14:6 (NKJV)

LOVE is one of the most widely used, but often misunderstood concepts in human experience.  We could look at the gammut of meaning -- all the way from mindless approval and tolerance to physical lust.  Love can mean a soft kind of permissiveness or it can mean a passionate kind of obssession ("I just love _______" (fill in the blank). 

So what kind of love is Jesus talking about here?  We need a definition.  He not only gives us the definition, He embodies it.  It is a love that involves WAY, TRUTH, and LIFE. 

The WAY is the way of the Cross -- it is self-sacrificial.  It lays its life down.  It is not aimed at self-gratification or inward feelings, but instead gives itself away. 

It is filled with TRUTH.  It is rock hard with the authority of God's Word and God's character.  Love that degenerates to un-principled, standardless acceptance is really nothing more than passivity and weakness.  God's love flows out of His authority.  It is outlined in the bold light of truth. 

Lastly, God's love is LIFE.  It takes into consideration all the complexities of this bubbling thing we call "living."  It grows and becomes "life-giving" wherever it goes.  Like pure, clear, clean water filling a stagnant pond, God's self-sacrificial, authority-filled LOVE changes ever place it enters.

It is by this LOVE that Christ-followers are to be known.  This is what it means to live in the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Believing and Understanding

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 13:1-30

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”  Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”  Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” ....  12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  John 13:7-8, 12 (NKJV)

This is the great story of the time surrounding the institution of the Lord's Supper in which Jesus stooped and washed the disciples' feet.  This act of service done by Jesus is indictive of the PURPOSE and END of properly recieving Holy Communion.  It speaks of forgiveness, cleansing, and reconciliation.  POWERFUL!  We would do well to look further at this great event.

I want now however to pick up a sub-plot that runs through the story and speaks to a broader pattern of how God works in our lives.  Jesus told the disciples "I am going to do something to you -- I'm going to wash your feet."  He then told them that they would NOT NOW UNDERSTAND.  But, that they would understand later.

This is the way God often works in our lives.  He doesn't always explain things fully at first.  He just does it!  Then He later begins to explain to us what He did.

This is way we get saved!  At the point of salvation, very few know what it really means.  Jesus does not then fully explain the implications of the Cross.  We usually do not then learn the wonderful truths of His substitutionary, vicarious, atoning death that carries away our sins thus giving us a new life and a new identity.  We barely fathom the meaning of righteousness before God and thereby being a new creature with all the resulting priviledges and fruit.

Jesus says to us, "What I am doing (in saving you) you do not understand now, but you will know after this."  Such is the joy of growing in the Lord.  We learn and plumb the depths of what He has already done for us.

Rarely, do we at first understand.  We must begin by faith.  We must believe.  There is an old story from the Middle Ages surrounding two great leaders of that time.  They were St. Anselm of Canterbury and the great theologian Peter Abelard.  One of Anselm's great quotes is this, "I believe that I might understand."  In other words, we must begin by BELIEVING.  Only later will be begin to understand.  Abelard took the opposite position.  He stated, "I understand that I might believe."  He began with DOUBT.  He required that God make explanation to him, before he would take steps of faith. 

Certainly both of these postions have some value.  I believe it is important for us all to seek answers to hard questions.  BUT WE BEGIN WITH FAITH.

Understanding will will come...if we pursue the Lord with open hearts and open will come.  It is a noble thing to search out a matter.  But we begin by trust in a God who loves us will do us good.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Father of Lies

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 8:31-59

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  John 8:44 (NKJV)

Jesus, from time to time, would speak out in extremely confrontational fashion.  In addressing the Pharisees here, He basically told them that they were sons of the devil!  Jesus looked beyond the obvious circumstances of their discussion and saw all the way to the source.  In so doing, He saw that they were inspired not by human opinions or decisions, but rather by satanic influence.

He then goes on the give insight into our adversary and how he operates.  Satan's stock in trade is LIES.  He is essentially a liar.  If we can finally get this into our heads it will help us in our battle with temptation and sin.  All Satan's activities are deceptive!  He promises much but only delivers bondage.

It is in this context that Jesus says that the TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE (John 8:32).  Truth is not just our opinions of the truth.  It is the truth of God's Word and His will.  When we walk in His truth, it is the path of freedom.  When we walk in Satan's lies and deception, the result is always death -- he is a murderer. 

So, daily we make a commitment to walk in the Word of God.  Walk in the light.  Walk in the clarity of divine truth.  That is real freedom!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Responsibilities that Accompany a Miracle

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 6:1-21

And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.  So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost."  John 6:11-12 (NKJV)

John gives an amazing insight with details surrounding the ministry of Jesus.  Beautiful facets of truth lie in the stories of Scripture.

We find an example in this -- the story of the feeding of the five thousand.  Jesus takes a boy's loaves and fishes and multiplies them enough to feed the entire multitude.  In fact, there is enough so that everyone had "as much as they wanted."  This is an abundant, overflowing feast.  It is a MIRACLE of provision.

Yet, interestingly, Jesus says that they should gather all the fragments so that nothing is lost.  It might be asked why should they have to save these left-overs when such a mighty miracle had just happened.  Why not just do another miracle?  When the abundance is flowing, why would you have to save anything?

It is implied that miracles should not be an excuse for waste or irresponsibility.  It is implied that a day is coming when these fragments will be needed.  It is implied that this miracle is not endless or unlimited. 

This speaks to two dimensions we are all called to walk in.  First, there is the dimension of the MIRACULOUS.  God wants to visit us with overflowing, miraculous provision.  Second, He also wants us to practice RESPONSIBLE CONSERVATION.  Each gift from God is to be stewarded with due care that reflects the heart of the Giver.

God will pour His unlimited grace out on our lives.  He also wants us to be good stewards of that grace carrying it to the fullest, the widest, and the maximum of its use in speading the Goodness of our God.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Life Rather Than Rules

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 5:1-23

For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. John 5:16 (NKJV)

It is amazing how rules can become more important than LIFE. Jesus actually healed a man who had been sick for 38 years. However, He did one thing wrong. He did it on the Sabbath - the holy day.

There is an essential contradiction here. Holy days are for GIVING LIFE, not crimping life. Religion by its nature tells us what we can not do. It crimps us. Jesus, however, came to liberate - to bless and heal.

Relationship with the living God will focus us on the release of blessing. We will find that our life does not consist in rule-keeping, but rather in life-giving. This is the way Jesus calls us to live. It is the best life.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Sin of Overfamiliarity

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 4:43-54

Now after two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. John 4:43-44 (NKJV)

One of the interesting side notes to Jesus' ministry was not only the times He DID mighty works, but also the times He DID NOT do those wonderful acts. It should always be our interest when God chooses to bless. But it is also important to see when and why He does not bless.

The sin of Nazareth was OVERFAMILIARITY. They felt they knew Jesus too well. They had watched Him grow up, yet they had not recognized the value of who He was.

We can also fall into this same trap. By OVERFAMILIARITY with the Lord we can lose the awe and respect. Jesus becomes our "buddy" rather than our Lord. In all our closeness to God, let us never lose the awesome fear of God. To do so would be to shorten His hand of power in our behalf.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 4:4-42

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work."  John 4:34 (NKJV)

We hear much these days about "burnout."  I think this is the result of an "over-busy" culture.  Everyone seems stressed to the max and running too hard.  Our pace of life bears serious consideration.

However, there may be more to this than just busy, over-booked schedules.  Burnout is a direct result of lack of REPLENISHMENT.  We "give out" and never "take in." 

One of the most important questions any of us should ask is this:  "Have I established postive patterns of replenishment in my life?"  This involves being able to draw into the life of Jesus and allow the "living water" to refresh your soul.  It is so important.

Jesus gives us the pattern.  He said, "MY FOOD is to do the will of God."  In essence, "I want to always stay right in the middle of God's will for me -- not necessarily everyone else's will for me -- GOD'S WILL FOR ME.  I want to DO His will."

One of the signs of doing the will of God is that when you are done you feel fuller than when you started.  You do not feel depleted.  There is something about the presence of God that fills us with power and joy.  This is the greatest guard against a burned out life.  So drink from the well today.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Decrease and Increase

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 3:22-4:3

He must increase, but I must decrease.  John 3:30 (NKJV)

In John's Gospel we regularly find epithets of profound truth.  As stories are told, we not only get the facts, we also get the meaning -- the implications -- the results of what Jesus says and does.  Therefore, the study of the Gospel of John yields great insights into God's purposes and His intentions.

This passage today speaks of the comparison between Jesus and John the Baptist in their "baptizing ministry."  John makes some very important observations about Jesus that are key to all ministry. 

Ours is a day of inflated egos, of bold vision, of building of empires.  There are some fantastic things going on today in the church world.  There is word of entire MOVEMENTS being birthed.  This is great and grand in terms of advance of the Kingdom of God.  We must applaud and encourage such great things.  In fact, it is the desire of all of us to participate more fully in these grand things.

However, we must be careful that human ego not rule the day.  Powerful individual persona can be the sentinel characteristic of some of the works of today.  In fact, it has even been said that certain national leaders have risen to the level of "Christian rock stars."

The example of John must speak to us.  "I MUST DECREASE -- SO THAT HE CAN INCREASE."

The Puritans spoke of "performing to an audience of ONE."  There is also another aspect to this picture.  There is only one who appears on the stage!  There is only one who we adore and follow.  His name is Jesus! 

In all our advance and in all our accomplishments, this must remain as our singular vision.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Wonder of It All

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 3:1-21

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (NKJV)

This short passage contains one of the most widely quoted Scripture verses in the entire Bible. John 3:16 is a precious and valuable summarization of the Good News. God sent His Son Jesus for the saving of all those who would believe!

This familiar truth is like a finely cut diamond. We would do well to not rush on to other passages thinking that we have exhausted the greatness in our over-familiarity. Let's look more closely at a bit of the context.
We find in adjoining verses beautiful facets of gospel truth.

1. SALVATION IS OF GOD. Vs. 13 says that our "believing and receiving" did not begin by our desire for God or our efforts to reach Him. It started by HIS INITIATIVE when He came down to us - He descended. So YOU WERE CHOSEN BY GOD! What a wonderful truth. He first personally came after YOU!

2. JESUS CAME ON A RESCUE MISSION. Some may wonder how a loving God could condemn men to eternal hell. Vs. 17 says that Jesus does not condemn, but rather man is ALREADY under condemnation. God does not create our guiltiness. Instead, He offers a means of escape - of deliverance in Christ.

3. THE ESSENCE OF FAITH IS "SEEING". Vss. 14-15 describes a miracle of forgiveness and deliverance that happened underM Moses' leadership in the Old Testament. During a plague of disease, Moses fashioned a golden serpent as a symbol of the coming Messiah and placed it on a pole. All who LOOKED AT this golden serpent were healed. The essence of faith is not conduct or works or even ideologies. The essence of faith is SEEING. Just look on Jesus.

One of the most wonderful and blessed aspects of Bible truth s that it is inexhaustible. We may read and re-read this great passage and each time gain greater insight into the wonder of salvation in Christ.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage
John 1:29-51

He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah..." John 1:41
The following day Jesus wanted to go to Gallilee and He found Phillip... John 1:43
Phillip found Nathaniel and said to him, "We have found Him..." John 1:45

Men FOUND Jesus. Jesus FOUND men. Men FOUND their friends and brought them to Jesus. This is the drama of John Chapter One. It is a story of discovery and delight.

Do you remember when you FOUND Jesus? Also, do you remember who you told about your discovery? In the thrill of new-found faith you wanted learn more about Him and to let that light shine on those nearest you.

It is wonderful to consider that Jesus had already been pursuing you! Not only did you find Him, He FOUND you. He called Simon by a new name (vs. 42). He told Nathaniel what he had been doing hours before their encounter. Jesus already knew him! Even now, as you seek the Lord, He is already ahead of you preparing the way.