March 31, 2018

Scripture: John 19:42 CEB
“Because it was the Jewish Preparation Day and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus in it.”

A lot of people like to plan ahead. Having a plan can alleviate a lot of stress and pressure. There is no guess work, you just follow the plan. I mean we have all sat around and had the ridiculous “what do you want to do” discussion, right? If you have a plan that discussion is out of the question. Someone may ask, “What is the plan?” All you do is show them the plan! I happened to know several people who love to plan. Many years ago, our family went on vacation at a resort in the Florida Keys without a plan. We spent most of our first few days just hanging out in or by the pool. I thought it was great and the kids were enjoying the pool. Little did I know it was driving Debbie crazy. She is a planner and we had no plan. Almost every Thursday night Debbie will ask me, “What’s your plan for tomorrow?” (Friday is my day off.) My response is always the same, “I don’t have a plan. It’s my day off.” Are you a planner? Or do you like to take things as they come?

This is what I think of when I read the Scripture verse, and its context, for today. Jesus is being crucified and there is no place to bury his body. No one has planned for this. Jesus even said that the Son of God had no place to lay his head while alive. In his death there is no place arranged for him to lay his head either. This seems like poor planning. Why didn’t someone think of this. So, while Jesus is dying, Joseph of Arimathea notices this and asks Pilate if he can take Jesus’ body for burial. Joseph is a planner. He and Nicodemus, remember him, take Jesus’ body and the burial spices to a tomb that was nearby for burial. It does not say in this passage that it was anyone’s tomb in particular. It was simply nearby. Is Jesus laid in the closest tomb because of poor planning? Did no one think of this at all? The Savior of humanity is buried in a borrowed tomb because it just happened to be nearby!

The question really becomes, “Was this poor planning or divine providence?” It could have been poor planning. If so, it would have been the same kind of poor planning that led to the scene in the manger. If so, it would have been the same kind of poor planning that led to 5,000 people being fed. If so, it would have been the same kind of poor planning that gave Peter the faith to walk on water. If so, it would have been the same kind of poor planning that raised Lazarus from the grave. If so, it would be the same kind of poor planning that led to a young colt being available to carry Jesus into Jerusalem. I don’t believe for a second that the nearby tomb was used because of poor planning. I believe it was there to be used by God’s divine providence. The people involved may not have had a plan, but God had a grand plan. Every step of the way God was providing for Jesus—from Bethlehem all the way to Calvary. God provided everything necessary for Jesus to fulfill his purpose—to seek and save the lost.

Today, will you trust in God’s divine provision? Will you believe that God has a plan? God’s plan is to provide for your redemption. Jesus is God’s plan. Will you place all your trust in him today? Whether you are a planner or go with the flow, God has a plan. When you don’t know exactly what that plan is have faith that God knows. On this Holy Saturday we remember the nearby tomb as a reminder of God’s provision and providence. Tomorrow the tomb will be empty. Today Jesus’ body lays in a nearby tomb. Tomorrow Jesus will be risen, forever! Hallelujah! God provides for everyone.

Prayer: God of Bethlehem and God of Calvary, thank you for your providence. You are amazing the way that you provide for all our needs. I will trust you today for all my needs. I will trust in your Holy Spirit to guide me to where I need to be. I will continue to trust Jesus for my salvation. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

March 30, 2018

Scripture: John 18:38 CEB
“What is truth?” Pilate asked.”

The author of a blog recently contended that the current climate in the United States felt a lot like the 1960s to him. The author’s main contention was that people are not satisfied with the way things are heading and they are demanding action. There have been marches organized, rallies taking place, and a general unrest in society and a desire for change. Actually, the author did an excellent job of not taking any particular side of any of the debated issues involved. The author was simply lamenting the need for the protests and the inability of our elected leaders, and all leaders, to work together toward solutions that address current concerns. As I was reading the blog I realized that the true problem in our current culture is wrapped in the question, “What is truth?” People on each side of any debate are supporting their truth. They believe that their viewpoint, philosophy, or proposal is the truth. If people cannot agree on what the truth is then it is almost impossible to make progress. The truth matters.

Merriam-Webster defines truth as “the body of real things, events, and facts: a judgement, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true.” Truth is important because it is real (thing, event, or fact, judgment, proposition, or idea) and is accepted as true. This definition is very important when understanding the dynamic of where we are today. The word “accepted” is the key. What do people accept as true? If people can come to a common agreement about what is true, they can move forward. If not, they are stuck and usually problems ensue. The truth matters and is key to progress and forward movement. What is truth?

That is the heart of our Scripture passage for today. Jesus has been arrested and sent to Pilate for judgment. In the conversation between Jesus and Pilate, Jesus makes the following statement, “I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth.” This is what prompts Pilate to ask the question, “What is truth?” Indeed! What is truth? The rest of Jesus’ statement was, “Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.” At first reading this statement of Jesus seems a little cryptic. So, what is Jesus saying? Jesus is saying what he has already said before. In the 14th chapter of The Gospel of John, Jesus is asked by Thomas, “How can we know the way?” Jesus was sharing with his disciples about leaving them to go back to his Father’s house. He tells them they know the way, but Thomas indicates they don’t. Jesus answers Thomas by saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” So, when Pilate asks, “What is truth?” Jesus has already answered him. Jesus' answer is the same as his answer in the garden, I Am! Jesus is the truth! The truth matters.

On this Good Friday the truth matters. The truth was plotted against and falsely accused. The truth was arrested, tortured, and hung on a tree. The truth forgave the very people who were killing him because they did not know what they were doing. The truth died a sinner’s death in my place and yours. The truth was buried in a borrowed tomb. The truth came into the world to save the world, but the world did not accept the truth. Yet, Jesus' words still ring true—“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him." [John 3:16-17] The truth matters. If someone accepts this truth by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, they are made right with God and made a part of the family of God. Yes—the truth matters. This is what we remember on Good Friday as we remember the truth of what Jesus Christ did on our behalf.

Prayer: Holy God of truth, thank you for sending the truth into the world. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life today and forever. I am eternally grateful for all that Jesus did for me and for all on the cross. Come Holy Spirit and guide me to live in the truth of Jesus Christ today and every day. Amen.

March 29, 2018

Scripture: John 18:6 CEB
“When he said, “I Am,” they shrank back and fell to the ground.”

When we were living in Jacksonville and the girls were much younger, I was serving at a large church as the Executive Pastor and the girls went to preschool at the church and were very involved in the children’s ministry. In other words, they were at the church just a little less than I was. This always led to some very interesting conversations with adults. One time I walked up on a conversation between one of my daughters and a member of the church. The conversation was beginning to get a little heated on my daughter’s end. The member of the church kept telling her, “Your dad is a pastor.” My daughter would reply in a very agitated voice, “No, he’s a man!” They went back and forth at this for a little while, the church member thinking this was funny. The conversation finally ended when my daughter very loudly and insistently yelled, “He’s a pastor-man!” The conversation was over because she was right. Indeed, I was a pastor-man.

In my life I have been called many things—son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, student, graduate, friend, fiancé, husband, father, Christian, and pastor. Yes, there are other things I chose to leave off the list. However, all the things I did mention apply. In a very real sense they are who I am. Out of the list I shared there is truly one name that defines who I am—Christian. First and foremost, we are to be followers of Jesus Christ who are centering our lives on loving God and loving neighbor. My relationship with God comes first. The second name in my life is husband. My relationship with my wife is the second most important relationship in my life. Then comes father; my relationship with my daughters is the next most important relationship. After these comes my role as pastor. I am a pastor by vocation and calling, which means that I have been called to be set apart for the role of pastor in the church. It is a part of who I am, but it is not all of who I am. It is important to know who you are.

In the verse for today from The Gospel of John, those who have come to arrest Jesus are asked a question. Jesus asks for whom they have come and they tell him they have come for Jesus, the Nazarene. Jesus responds by answering, “I Am.” Jesus uses the same name that God gave to Moses. Jesus has literally said, “The I Am is here.” This is who Jesus is! Jesus is the second person of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and when he proclaims this in the garden the Roman soldiers and those who had come with them “shrank back and fell to the ground.” The ones who came to arrest him could not help but be overwhelmed in presence of the One who was sent for this very purpose. After all, it was this day (Holy Thursday) in the upper room where Jesus prepared his disciples for this moment. He had been preparing them for three years. Now the moment had come, and Jesus claims clearly who he is—I Am.

What will be our reaction to Jesus' claim? Today, this Holy Thursday, will we shrink back and fall to the ground in the knowledge of who Jesus is? Or will we go boldly into the day knowing that by grace through faith in Jesus Christ we are his followers called to live for Him? Both reactions are worthy responses to the knowledge of who Jesus is. Last thing—because we know who Jesus is, we also know who we are! We are Christians! Sons and daughters of the most high God. You are a child of God and a person of great worth. Live today in the knowledge of who you are and do great things in the name of Jesus Christ—I Am!

Prayer: Holy God, you are the great I Am. You are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the three in one. Because of Jesus I know for certain who I am—a child of God. Empower me through the power and presence of your Holy Spirit to live in this knowledge today. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

March 28, 2018

Scripture: Mark 14:42 CEB
“Get up! Let’s go! Look, here comes my betrayer.”

Yesterday we read how Jesus told his disciples to sit here while I pray. Sitting isn’t easy. The other option is to be on the move. Jesus came back to his disciples after asking them to “sit here” and he gives them an even harder direction. This time, after he has prayed three separate times in agony, Jesus says to his disciples, “Get up! Let’s go!” Specifically, Jesus says, “Get up! Let’s go! Look, here comes my betrayer.” It was hard enough for the disciples to sit still and wait while Jesus prayed. In just a few moments the religious leaders and Roman soldiers would arrive with Judas, the betrayer. The moment would move from agonizing prayer to poignant accusation. The disciples would be moving from sitting in wait to walking into the fray. Jesus was asking them to follow him into the most difficult and terrible 72 hours in history. Jesus said get up, let’s go, and they got up and went.

How could they do that? They couldn’t stay awake and sit there while Jesus prayed. They fell asleep on him. When Jesus tells them to follow him into the night, suddenly they are capable of doing what he asked. I don’t know that it should be that surprising though. Following is what the disciples did best. After all, with one invitation they left their old lives and followed him. Wherever Jesus went the disciples followed. When he told them to go across the lake the disciples got in the boat and went. If Jesus told them to go out and tell people the Good News, they went. Following was the disciples' specialty. There was no difference on this occasion. Jesus was done praying and it was time to go. When Jesus invites them to come along, the disciples follow him. It is clear that the disciples wanted to be where Jesus was even if they could not do what Jesus did.

I believe it might be just the opposite for us as modern-day disciples of Jesus. We said yesterday that sitting wasn’t always easy to do. However, I believe we are better sitters than we are goers. Overall, we experience church today by sitting in church, Bible study, small group, or events. To put it in the terms of a sporting event, we are more often fans than we are players. We are more often in the stands than on the field. If Jesus were to actually say to us, “Get up! Let’s go!,” would we get up and go? Especially if it was a difficult road filled with uncertainty and even the threat of physical harm. Jesus calls us to get up and go! Remember the great commission? “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” [Matthew 28:19-20] The command is to get up and go. Will we go?

Today may be the day Jesus is telling you to get up and go. Go and call someone from whom you are estranged. Go to lunch with a coworker who has been struggling. Go home a little early and play with your kids. Go fold some laundry or help your spouse around the house. Go to your prayer closet and spend some time with God. Whatever it may be that Jesus is calling you to—get up and go! You won’t regret it! Listen to the very end of the great commission … “Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” Get up and go—and Jesus promises to go with you.

Prayer: Holy God, I want to go where you want me to go. Guide me by your Holy Spirit to see the opportunities you put before me. I want to hear your call and I want to go. In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

March 27, 2018

Scripture: Mark 14:32 CEB
“Jesus and his disciples came to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I pray.”

Have you ever watched a 2-year-old in a restaurant, at the mall, in the grocery store, or anywhere? They have a hard time sitting. No, not sitting in general. At two they are physically capable of sitting pretty well; which is what makes the following statement more frustrating for parents. What they are not very good at is sitting still. A 2-year-old tends to get distracted and is more interested in other things. They get fidgety and have a lot of energy to get out of their system. This is why you can hear grownups anytime they are around kids say something like, “Oh, to have their energy.” All of this seems to be a very well-documented truism about 2-year-olds. Yet, adults don’t seem to learn—do we? We insist that these little human beings must sit still. If they do not, we get upset at them and even punish them. However, the universal truth seems to prevail—2-year-old kids can’t stay still for very long. It’s a skill they just are not good at.

If we are honest, there are a lot of adults who are not very good at sitting still. Yes, we are able to stay in one place for a while. We do so at the movies, plays, business meetings, concerts, church, and many other settings. But adults are restless, too. We like to be on the move. We like experiencing new things. We can get bored. We are easily distracted. Some people like these things more than others, but most adults aren’t as good at sitting still as they would like to think. We may sit in one place for a while, but are we focused on one thing? Are we truly resting when we sit? Do we spend time watching a show, surfing the internet, reading a book, or checking our social media accounts? Most of us spend time keeping busy. Most of us are not very good at sitting still—especially in our spirit. This is what Jesus calls his disciples, and us, to do. Jesus asked them to “sit here while I pray.”

The disciples stayed in one place, but they did not sit still in terms of focusing on what Jesus was asking of them. Each time Jesus returned to them they were asleep. To be certain, this was sitting still. Jesus was not asking them to sleep. Jesus had asked them to sit there while he prayed. He wanted for the disciples to stay alert with him. Jesus would do the praying. He wanted them to sit there and stay alert. Perhaps they would say a prayer as they felt led to do so. He really wanted them to stay alert to what was going on. This was an incredibly important time in Jesus’ life and ministry. Those who were closest to him should be awake and alert to capture the moment. At that moment, this was the most important thing they were being asked to do—sit here—be present. As we strive to follow Jesus and center our lives on loving God and loving neighbor—we need to be present. This may mean the most important thing we are asked to do is “sit here.” Sit here in this board meeting and open yourself to the Spirit leading you. Sit here at the dinner table and be truly present with your family. Sit here in this marriage loving your spouse selflessly in committed, covenant relationship. Sit here in the restaurant asking the server if there is anything you can pray for her about. Sit here means to be completely present and available to Jesus.

Choose to be present today! Start your day sitting at the feet of Jesus. There is no better place to start. Wherever Jesus takes you today—sit here. Be present with and for Jesus and the people you encounter. You will not be sorry you did so. In fact, you will most likely be amazed what happens when you simply choose to be present.

Prayer: God, use me today. I am yours. I will be present and open to the movement of the Holy Spirit today. Put me where you want, with whom you want, and doing exactly what you want to your glory. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

March 26, 2018

Scripture: Luke 22:43 CEB
“Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him.”

When I went back to college to finish my bachelor’s degree I was quite a bit older than the traditional students. I was in a class of incoming freshmen who were 18 years old and I was 28 years old. Being around folks who were a lot younger than I was helped me determine that I wanted to be in a little better shape. I decided the way that I would do that was running. I ran every day starting at barely being able to run a mile to running three - four miles each day. After several weeks of running I had a friend offer to run with me. I accepted and for about a year we were running partners. This was an amazing help to me. I had never run before and was very much a novice. My running partner was an experienced runner who helped push me to do things I had never done before. The best thing my running partner did for me was to help me believe that I could do the things I had never done before in terms of running. It’s been a long time since I ran, but the best part of running was having someone who believed in me before I believed in myself.

My running partner actually decided to transfer to a different college closer to home. This meant that I would be running on my own. I was ready for this, especially after all the time I spent with my running partner. One day I went out for a run and was feeling particularly good. I felt so good during my warm up and stretch that I decided I would do something different. That day I decided I would run until I was tired, until I couldn’t run anymore. Remember I usually only ran three miles a day. That day when I hit the three mile mark I wasn’t tired at all and kept running. When I hit the four mile mark I was doing so well I kept going. Somewhere between the four and five mile mark doubt started creeping in. How much farther could I go? It was at that point that I distinctly remembered the words of my running partner. I could hear my running partner telling me I could do it, to keep pushing. Suddenly, I had passed the five mile mark and kept running. I ended up running six and a half miles that day. It was, and still is, the longest run of my life. All thanks to my running partner—even when he wasn’t physically there.

I wonder if this is what it was like for Jesus as he prayed in The Garden of Gethsemane that night. He was praying in agony and his spirit was grieved. He prayed so hard that his sweat was like drops of blood. Luke records, “Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him.” Jesus had not yet made it to Calvary, but this was as close as he had been in his life. In this time of distress, when he was anxious about what was to come, an angel came to strengthen him. I believe the angel would have reminded him of what God the Father had sent him to do. I believe that the angel would have encouraged him. Perhaps this is just what Jesus needed to propel him to the cross. As the officials come to arrest him and take him away the Gospel accounts show a much stronger and prepared Jesus. This time of prayer, preparation and strengthening came right in time. It was the appearance of the angel that helped prepare Jesus for what would come. God sent the angel when Jesus needed it most. The angel was sent to strengthen him.

God sent the angel to strengthen Jesus precisely at the time of his greatest need. Do you trust that God will provide for you in your time of greatest need? No doubt, God isn’t asking you to do what Jesus did at Calvary. However, God is asking you to live for him. Will you trust him to provide for everything you need to accomplish this? Remember, Jesus prayed to the Father “not what I want, but what you want.” Trust God today to provide everything you need to live for him. If you will, God will strengthen you and you will accomplish more than you ever thought you would.

Prayer: Holy God, I will trust in your ability to provide for all my needs today. I will give you all the glory as I see this unfold in my life today. Holy Spirit guide and direct all of my thoughts, words, and actions. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

March 24, 2018

Scripture: John 17:26 CEB
“I’ve made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.””

Over the years I have had the honor and privilege of officiating around 100 weddings. Weddings are a beautiful expression of a couple’s commitment to each other. The wedding ceremony is also a beautiful expression of God’s commitment to the couple. The couple stands before God, and the gathered congregation, and professes their love and commitment to each other in the form of a covenant. This covenant is a special relationship that involves three parties: bride, groom, and God. If the bride or groom decides to forsake the covenant, the marriage is in jeopardy. However, if the bride and groom decide to forsake the covenant they have made with God, the marriage is doomed. Of course, they can always return to the covenant and until they do the marriage will suffer. The amazing thing about marriage is that God is in the heart of the covenant. God promises to be in the bride, God promises to be in the groom, God promises to be in their marriage and in them.

One of my favorite parts of the marriage ceremony is the giving and receiving of the rings. In the liturgy for the ceremony the pastor says these words, “The wedding ring is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, signifying to us the uniting of these persons in holy marriage.” The shape of the ring is a circle, having no beginning or end. The very shape of the ring is a reminder to those receiving them of Christ’s unending love for them. It is in the context of this unending love that the marriage covenant is entered. One thing I am always sure to tell couples is they will let each other down from time to time. Their love for each other will need to be based on their covenant, not their feelings. I am also sure to tell them that God will never break the covenant. Just as Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us—God will always uphold the marriage covenant of which two people invite God to at the center. In essence, the rings are a reminder that God’s love and faithful promise is in each of them—and will always be.

This is what is so exciting to me about the above portion of Jesus’ prayer. Jesus is praying to the Father and letting Him know that he has lifted the Father’s name. The purpose of doing this was “so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.” Did you get that? What Jesus is saying is that his life has been one big example of what it means to be a living, breathing vessel for God’s love. The very love of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is in you. Everywhere you go, Jesus is with you and living inside of you in the power and person of the Holy Spirit. This is why those who follow Jesus are capable of loving God and others the way Jesus did. The love of God is in them.

So today … hear the words of Paul from Romans 12 and live them!

So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your every day, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, and develops well-formed maturity in you.

Prayer: Holy God, thank you for the example of Jesus Christ. Thank you for showing your love for all of humanity through Jesus. Help me to remember that your love is in me. Empower me to live like Christ today. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

March 23, 2018

Scripture: John 17:22 CEB
“I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one.”

It was a team building exercise with the purpose of getting a group of people to work together as one team. There were six people on a team and there were four teams in total. Every team was required to be united in their decisions and actions before they could move forward. All four teams were competing against each other to be the top finisher by the end of the exercise. It was only an exercise, but it got to be pretty intense. The first step was to agree within your team of six about what action would be taken. This was no easy task. Six people had six different opinions about what should be done. As the teams went through the exercise a multiplicity of dynamics arose. By the time the exercise was finished, the team that was able to become one in their decision making and actions won. Have you ever had this kind of experience in work? Or in life? If you have, you know it’s not always easy to get a group of people to become ONE.

This is what Jesus prayed for his disciples, and by extension that means you and me. Jesus longed for those who follow him to “… be one just as we are one.” You have heard it said that there is one God, one Savior, one faith, and one baptism. We are one in the sense of Who we follow. God the Father created us, Jesus Christ the Son redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit sustains us. Yet, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one. We know this as the Holy Trinity. In the Godhead we have the perfect example of what it means to be one. This is why Jesus prayed for all who follow him to be one. He did not pray for us to be one with each other. No, Jesus prayed for us to be one just as the Trinity is one. One in purpose, one in faith, one in love, one in faithfulness, one in obedience, one in God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that there was power in being one.

I believe this was one of the most powerful aspects of Jesus’ public and private ministry. Jesus was a united people. Jesus brought people together around a common theme and a common hope. Jesus was consistently followed by large crowds. Some came to see what he was all about. Others came to see what he would do. As people came to see, they believed. Thousands of people followed him wherever he went. Even when he tried to get away they would find him. The one thing that Jesus united people around was the kingdom of God. God’s saving grace had been at work among the people of Israel for thousands of years before Jesus. Jesus reminded them of this truth. However, Jesus also taught them that the kingdom of God was being realized in their own time and in their presence. Jesus taught that he was the Son of God, sent by the Father to bring salvation to those who would believe. Jesus taught that anyone who would believe would be made right before God and would be one with Christ, one with the Father, and one with the Holy Spirit. Jesus brought hope. Jesus prayed with that same hope when he prayed, “I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one.” Jesus prayed that we would be one!

Will you be ONE today? Ask God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to fulfill the prayer of Jesus in your life today. As you live today as one, seek to be a person who unites. Stay away from causing division or entering activities that promote division. Instead, seek to unite people. Look for the things people have in common and focus on them. Most of all, seek to be one with God through Jesus Christ the Son. As you seek to be one you will be setting an example for others. The people around you will notice the difference. You may even be able to help them understand how they can be a part of the one!

Prayer: God, the Creator; Jesus, the Redeemer; Holy Spirit, the Sustainer, thank you for being one. I will seek to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus. Holy Spirit give me the strength and wisdom to live as one today. I set aside all my own selfish ambitions and seek first the kingdom of God. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
 

March 22, 2018

Scripture: John 17:17 CEB
“Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth.”

It is one of the most well-known sayings in the Bible. It has often been misused and misquoted. The premise of the saying is usually captured, but the context is almost always forgotten. This is the issue with a lot of the Bible. When we misquote the Bible or misuse Scripture or even take it out of context altogether we can cause damage. The saying I referred to earlier comes in The Gospel of John chapter 8 verse 32. In this saying Jesus is speaking to the Jews who have put their faith in him as the Messiah. Jesus is letting them know they must remain faithful to his teaching and continue as his disciples. Jesus says if they will do this, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Often this quote is taken out of context to mean any truth in any situation. While the premise of the saying may remain intact, it is not what Jesus was saying. Jesus was referring to a specific truth for a specific people in a specific time. Jesus was not referring to the truth that 2+2=4 will set you free.

This is so important to remember. Yes, when you know the truth it will be freeing. If you know that 2+2=4, then you are free to begin experiencing the rest of what math has to offer. If you do not know the basic truths of math, you will never get to the more advanced uses of math. However, Jesus was talking about a much more specific and eternal truth — the truth that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Jewish law. Jesus was talking about the truth of God sending him as the promised Messiah. Jesus said that if you remain faithful to my teachings and are a true disciple THEN you will know the truth. Then they would know the truth that God loves them and doesn’t just desire for them to follow a set of hundreds of laws. Then they will know that God sent the Messiah to take away their sins and make atonement on their behalf. Then they will know that they will spend eternity with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. THIS is the TRUTH that will set THEM free.

This is what Jesus is praying for in his prayer in John 17. Jesus asks the Father to, “Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth.” This is the same truth Jesus taught to the Jews who believed in him. This is the truth that Jesus taught to the Gentiles who believed in him. This is the truth that Jesus teaches to all of us still today. When we are saved by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ we are made holy and righteous before God. Only God can make us holy. It is then our responsibility to remain faithful to Jesus’ teachings as disciples. When we remain in the truth, that God sent his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life, then we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. To put it more succinctly — Jesus is the truth and Jesus sets us free! Just as Jesus prayed for the Father to make us holy, we must continue to pray for God to make us holy each and every day.

Make today count! Remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus in everything you do. Especially, remember to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor the way you have been loved by Christ. Keep this truth close to you and this truth will indeed set you free. Live in that freedom today. Love in that freedom today and offer a glimpse of the truth to everyone you encounter. Make today count as you allow God to continue to make you holy.

Prayer: God of grace and God of mercy, thank you for all you have done for me. I am forever grateful for the gift of your Son, Jesus. Empower me today through your Holy Spirit to live in your truth. I want to live in your freedom today. In the name of Jesus. Amen.   

March 21, 2018

Scripture: John 17:13 CEB
“Now I’m coming to you and I say these things while I’m in the world so that they can share completely in my joy.”

There are special moments in our life where we experience deep joy. When we graduate from high school. The day we find out we are accepted to the college of our choice. When we are hired for our first job. The day we marry the person we love. The day our children are born. There are many special occasions that bring with them a deep sense of joy. These are incredible moments which we would like to bottle and be able to relive whenever we want. The joy we feel is more than mere happiness, it is an overwhelming sense of God’s goodness to us. Perhaps the best part about most of these special moments of deep joy is the people with whom we are able to share them. The people who love us and are invested in our joy. We celebrate those who celebrate with us. There is something extremely special about being able to share special moments where we experience deep joy together.

When I review my life, there are several people with whom I have shared some of the most joyous moments in my life. I am blessed beyond measure with my wife and daughters. I am grateful for friends like Eric, Dan, Aaron, Andrew, Steve, and so many more. I am thankful for my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, my in-laws, my nephew, and all my family. These folks have been with me in some of the most joyous moments in my life. Yet, as I have thought about these folks there is something even more special about them all. While they have been there to share in my joy – they have brought me even more joy. I have been with them in times of their joy and we have shared in each other’s joy for many, many years. I believe this is what true, godly relationships are all about. We give and share joy in authentic relationships. It is a mutual experience that brings joy to everyone.

I believe this is what Jesus is describing in his prayer to the Father. Jesus says, “Now I’m coming to you and I say these things while I’m in the world so that they can share completely in my joy.” Jesus makes it clear that his joy is in doing the will of the Father. He knows that his time on this earth was drawing to an end. Jesus also knew that this was only the beginning of the redemption of all creation. It is in completing the work of the Father that Jesus found great joy. Bringing salvation from sin and death for those he had been closest to would bring immense joy. Living into the truth of John 3:16-17 would have given Jesus incredible joy. So, Jesus wanted to make sure that the people he was about to give his life for would not just share in his suffering. Jesus wanted to ensure that those he loved would also share completely in his joy. The joy of his salvation and the joy of eternity with God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus gave us the gift of his joy. In John 15:11 Jesus says, “I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete.”

How will this truth affect you today? Jesus has placed his joy in you so that your joy may be complete. What will you do with this truth today? Seek that joy today. Start your day with gratitude for all that Jesus has done, especially for you. Give thanks to God for making a way for forgiveness and salvation. There isn’t anything you could have ever done or will ever do that can keep you away from God’s love. With the joy of Jesus in our heart and mind we cannot be sour. There are things in life that stink. I assure you those are not from God. It is only by turning to God and relying on the joy of the Lord in all circumstances that we will persevere. Don’t try to live in your own joy, but live in the joy of Jesus today. May you experience the true joy of Christ today.

Prayer: Holy God, thank you for being the God of joy. No matter what I face today I will do so with the joy that Jesus has given me. May my joy be complete in you today. In times of frustration, disappointment, excitement, sadness, or grief – I will remember your joy. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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