Today’s Scripture: John 6:35-40
35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. 37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”
When was the last time you were lost – like, really lost? The invention of GPS has certainly cut down that feeling of not knowing where we are or how to get back home. But unfortunately, GPS does not help our feeling emotionally and spiritually lost. I wish it did.
We have all been feeling a little lost these past few months – some of us more than others – but all of us are walking a road we’ve never been on before. This feeling of lostness can be overwhelming at times. To me life in the pandemic feels like driving in a city you used to live in decades ago. You recognize some familiar things, but the whole vibe is off, and you start to question your ability to navigate. You wonder if the “off” feeling will lead to complete lostness.
This happens in our spiritual lives as well. Maybe it’s even happening now. We remember times when we were close to God and felt the presence of Christ – but then life happens. We find ourselves in a familiar city, but it doesn’t feel quiet right. It feels like we’re a little lost. And the fear comes in that we won’t find our way back.
But today hear the words of Jesus in this passage: “And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me.”
It doesn’t matter if we feel lost. It does not matter that life has run over us and made us lose our way. It does not matter that our former closeness to God now feels like a gulf between us and God. It does not matter because Jesus has us. And he’s not going to lose us. No matter what.
Maybe today you are feeling a little (or a lot!) lost. Take a deep breath and remember that Jesus is still with you and he knows the way back home. Trust him. Follow him. He’s right here.
God thank you for sending your son Jesus. His life, death, and resurrection brings us to you in ways that we could not accomplish on our own. Remind us that because of Jesus we are never lost – no matter how lost we feel. Remind us that we are in the arms of Jesus – even now.
Today’s Scripture: John 6:22-29
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the far shore saw that the disciples had taken the only boat, and they realized Jesus had not gone with them. 23 Several boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the Lord had blessed the bread and the people had eaten. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. 25 They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”
28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
“Tell me what I need to do!”
We are a nation of doers. We want to know the plan, get the job done, check it off our list. There are books and podcasts and YouTube channels all about how to do the things that we want to do. What steps do I take to be the best? What tricks and tips do you have to help me get this done? How do I accomplish _________ (fill in the blank)?
The people who followed Jesus across the lake in this passage from John were also all about the performance and the action and the getting things done. They ask Jesus “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
This question kinda reminds me of all the different church podcasts and blogs and webinars that come across my desk telling me how to have an awesome church filled with people (especially young families!), serving the community, growing in every way. And yes, as a pastor I confess sometimes saying “Tell me what I need to do!”
We can get this way in our individual spiritual lives as well. We think that there is some plan or program or book or podcast that’s going to show us what we need to do in order to have a vibrant spiritual life. And then we go about “doing” all those things to show God that we are really committed. “Maybe if I do THIS then I will be closer to God.”
But Jesus reminds us that it’s more about being than doing. In fact, there is only one thing to “do”: believe.
Maybe we should take a step back from our need to know the next step. Maybe we should listen to the voice of Jesus today and just be – just believe.
God we admit to you that we are a people who want to know the plan. We want to know what we are supposed to do. We want to know what we have to do. We demand a syllabus and yet you have given us a one-step direction: believe. Help us to set aside our desire for plans and call us to a deeper belief in Christ.
Today’s Scripture: John 5:1-15
5 Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. 2 Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. 3 Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. 5 One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
7 “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
8 Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
9 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, 10 so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”
11 But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
12 “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.
13 The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. 14 But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” 15 Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him.
There’s always that one guy. You know the one. The one guy who, despite something good happening – has to point out the negative. I have to admit I have had some people in my life like that. And yes, I have been that guy as well (probably too often!).
The Jewish leaders were upset first that the man “worked” on the Sabbath by carrying his mat. And then they were upset that someone TOLD him to “work” on the Sabbath. You get the impression that they are looking for Jesus not to find out who did this miracle, but in order to accuse him of breaking the law! Talk about missing the big picture.
And yet I think we do this often. We focus on the rule instead of the reason. We miss the miracle because we are focused on the minutiae. We condemn the violation instead of celebrating the victory.
Jesus told us he did not come to break the law but the fulfill the law. In order words, Jesus’ actions show us the full meaning of the law. They show us what is really important – what we should actually be focused on – namely, the well-being of those around us. And yet too often we find ourselves getting mad that some rule was broken and missing the miracle that has happened.
Look for the miracles today. And let the rule-keeping go.
God forgive us for missing the miracles you give to us because we are focused on the rules. Give us a larger view – a more generous faith – a more open heart. Allow us to live with the same grace towards others as you have for us.
Today’s Scripture: John 4:10-14
10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”
13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
I once went on a bike ride from Norfolk to Washington D.C. It was a three day event in the early fall – but still very hot and humid. I made it but it was not fun. One of the things I remember about that ride was hearing over and over again “drink water!” The organizers of the ride wanted to make sure that we did not get dehydrated so they were constantly reminding us to hydrate. Our bodies just cannot make it without water.
Which was why the woman in this story was at well to begin with. She needed water. And she was focused on that goal. Of course, she was at the well at a time of day when she would not have to run into other women from the village (wouldn’t you do the same?). But her timing could not have been more perfect. She was there when Jesus was there.
Throughout the story we can see that the woman at the well is so focused on physical water that she misses the point of what Jesus is saying. At least until the end of the story when she gets that Jesus is talking about spiritual water.
I wonder how often we do that? I wonder how often we focus on our perceived need – usually physical – and miss our spiritual need? It makes sense. We have to drink. We have to eat. We have to go to work. We have to secure childcare. We have to pay the bills. We have to plan for retirement. Spiritual needs often take a back seat to life.
But if this story teaches us anything it teaches us that our spiritual needs are just as important as other needs in our life. The threat of spiritual dehydration is just as big as the threat of physical dehydration was for me on that bike ride. And yet we go on like it’s not a problem.
What is the state of your spiritual life today? Maybe this week is one where we concentrate on drinking the spiritual water Jesus has for us. Maybe this week we make an effort to connect with God everyday.
God we get so busy and so engaged with life that we forget about connecting with you. Forgive us. Help us to tap into the spiritual water that you are providing to us. May it be refreshing. May it be life-giving. May it give us strength for the journey.
Today’s Scripture: John 3:1-17
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
In our Wednesday Night Group we have been exploring the Enneagram of Personality and how knowing about yourself can help with your own spiritual growth and development. There are nine personality types in the Enneagram – all numbered 1 to 9. The other night we talked about type number ones and we learned that this personality type has a very loud and very persistent inner critic – judging themselves pretty much all of the time.
While this hyper inner critic is a part of being a “one”, all of us have inner critics to some extent, don’t we? We experience that condemnation that we bring to ourselves. We assume others are judging us and we just don’t measure up. I believe social media adds fuel to our inner critic. We compare ourselves to our “friends” and decide that we are just not good enough.
That’s why the last verse of this passage is so powerful. God did not send Jesus to judge us – but to save us. I don’t know how much we REALLY believe that! Jesus is not here to judge us. God did not send a judge to condemn us. God sent his son to save us – save us from a world (and our own selves) that judges us constantly.
As we head into the weekend think about how much of that inner critic you hear during the day and remind yourself that if Jesus, who was perfect, does not judge – then why should we do it to ourselves?
God we hear the critic, we hear the judge, we hear the voice of condemnation. Help us to also hear the truth – that you sent your son not to condemn – but to save. Help us to be people who are full of grace toward others and toward ourselves.
Today’s Scripture: John 2:1-12
2 The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
5 But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
11 This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
12 After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.
I wonder why Jesus’ early disciples decided to write about this particular miracle when they were deciding what stories to tell about Jesus? Maybe because it was “the first time Jesus revealed his glory.” Or maybe it was to show just how powerful he was. Or maybe it was to point out the importance of a nagging mother. Yes, this miracle shows all those things.
But today as I read this passage, I’m seeing something else. Maybe it’s just the state of my own mind at this moment, but in this miracle story, I see compassion.
The wine had run out. This was not just an inconvenience. It shows a lack of hospitality. It brings embarrassment to the groom and his family. This was a very bad thing. And Jesus’ mother brought it to his attention.
Jesus did not turn the water into wine because he thought it would make himself look good. He did not do it because he was thirsty or wanted the party to go on. I really don’t think he did it just to please his mom (although she certainly helped push him!). No, I think he did it because he felt compassion.
When we look at all of Jesus’ miracles we see the same thing: compassion moves him to act.
I don’t know about you, but I find that comforting today. Jesus has compassion for us. He knows our needs, he knows what we are going through. He knows and he acts. Be encouraged. This same Jesus is alive and with us even this moment – and his compassion extends to you. Now, keep an eye out for the miracle.
God we sometimes feel as if no one really cares about what we are going through. But you remind us that you are as close as our breath – intimately aware of what is happening. Help us to see the compassion of Jesus when it is presented to us. And help us to act with the same compassion toward others as has been shown to us.
Today’s Scripture: John 1:14-18
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”
16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.
I was once given a piece of advice that I’ve found useful over the years. The advice was this: when you move to a new place – move there.
I know, it sounds quite obvious, doesn’t it? And yet if we think about it, there have most likely been times when we moved to a new town but never “moved” there – certainly not in our hearts and minds. While we were physically in the new place, emotionally we were still in the place we left – or in the place we were looking to go next. But the advice this person gave me was good. When you move somewhere – actually move there, get to know the place, put down roots if possible. Or, in the words of our text today, “make your home” there.
The Message translation of verse 14 says that the Word “moved into the neighborhood”. I think that’s a good way to put it.
This is a radical fact. The Word, which existed before eternity – through which the whole world was created – that Word became human and moved into the neighborhood. Think about that. Would you want to leave heaven and come here?
And yet that is exactly what happened: Emmanuel – God with us. God moved in – really moved in.
Why is this important? Because now God knows. God knows what’s it’s like to live here. God knows what temptations we face, what injustice there are, what struggles we have. God knows what it’s like to grieve, to feel pain, to be overwhelmed with anxiety and fear. God knows because God’s been here as a human.
During this crazy time we are living in, it can seem like we are all alone and no one cares or understands. I get that. But the fact is God cares because God understands. God understands because God’s been through it all.
Today, rest in the fact that when you tell God about what’s happening in your life, God knows all about it because God lived in the middle of it – just like us.
God we pray that you will remind us this day that you know what we are going through. You know, and you care. We put our trust in you. We give you our concerns, our fears, our worries in the knowledge that you know all about them.
Today’s Scripture: John 1:6-13
6 God sent a man, John the Baptist 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
My dad was a high school football coach in an Oklahoma town where there was not much going on – at all. So, the football team was a pretty big deal – especially when they were winning. In other words, people knew my dad and therefore knew me.
I remember when my sister and I were young my dad telling us that because of his job (and small towns being what they are), the things we did would immediately get back to him. I think this was his way of saying that everyone in the community was watching us so don’t try to get away with anything. His eyes were literally everywhere! But that also meant that our actions were telling others about our family. I think he would have told us this even if he were not the high school football coach. Our actions tell the story of who we are and what we believe to be important. They reflect who we are and what we care about.
Our text today is about John the Baptist. John was not the light – but John was sent so that everyone might know about the light. His whole life was a testimony to the light. He was his own person of course – but his entire life reflected the light that was coming into the world.
The question this text asks of us is this: what story are your actions telling? What are you reflecting out into the world?
As disciples of Christ our daily actions should reflect the one we follow. This means that we are welcoming as Jesus welcomed. We forgive as Jesus forgave. We tell the truth, love those different than us, and seek justice where there is injustice. We reflect Jesus.
It’s a hard task – but if we all did it, what a different world it would be.
God we want our lives to be a reflection of Christ. We want to be like John – a witness to the light. In these dark times may the light of Christ be reflected in us.
Today’s Scripture: John 1:1-5
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
Starting today we are going to be using the Gospel of John as the focus of our daily devotionals. It will give us a track to run on as we make our way toward Advent and the celebration of the coming of Jesus.
This passage from John chapter one is read at the end of the Advent season – on Christmas Eve. It reminds us that while Jesus’ birth was something new and amazing – Christ (or the Word) has existed from the beginning. Not only that, the Word was with God and WAS God. God and Christ have been unified and in relationship for all eternity. This makes sense when you consider that God is Love and love can only exist in relationship. The trinity is the original love relationship.
Goodness, this may be too deep for a Monday morning!
I’ll get to the part that I think might be speaking to us today: it’s the last verse “The light (brought by Jesus) shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” Now THAT is some good news for a Monday morning!
There is no doubt that we are living in a dark period. I’m not trying to be maudlin, but I certainly don’t have to convince you that darkness is all around us.
There have been times these past few months when I thought the darkness of our time would overwhelm – times when I was sure the light was too dim to make any difference. But here’s the deal: the darkness can never extinguish the light!
No matter how dark things seem, no matter how much it feels like the darkness is here to stay, no matter how long the darkness lasts – it cannot be extinguished!
Why is that? Because through Jesus EVERYTHING was created. Through Jesus, light has been bropught to EVERYONE. Jesus is baked into the creation. The light cannot be extinguished because it’s a factory installed feature!
So when things start to look dim this week (as they inevitably will – it is still 2020 after all!) remind yourself of this fact: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
God when things get dark we tend to get scared. We tend to hunker down and hide from the world. But you remind us that no matter how dark things seem – Christ is here, You are here, and the darkness will not overcome the light. Help us to see the light this week no matter how much darkness there is.
Today’s Scripture: Psalm 123
I lift my eyes to you,
O God, enthroned in heaven.
2 We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy,
just as servants keep their eyes on their master,
as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.
3 Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy,
for we have had our fill of contempt.
4 We have had more than our fill of the scoffing of the proud
and the contempt of the arrogant.
I’ve felt the need to leave I Corinthians on this Friday for some reason. We may go back to it next week, but I feel the Spirit pulling me in a different direction with these devotionals. I wonder if my mental state just cannot take Paul right now. (Haha!) Stay tuned.
Today, I wanted us to look at this very short Psalm – 123. There is a phrase in it that I think fits my mood and maybe yours as well: “we have had our fill”.
The Psalmist is talking about having his fill of the contempt of the proud and the arrogant – those who would make fun of him for his devotion to God and his way of life. But when I read it this morning I found myself saying to God that I’ve had my fill – of everything! Not just the contempt of the proud.
I’ve had my fill of this virus. I’ve had my fill of politics. I’ve had my fill of cable news. I’ve had my fill of natural disasters and climate change. I’ve had my fill of racial injustice and racial unrest. I’ve had my fill of grief. I’ve had my fill of it all.
Am I the only one who feels this way?
Obviously the Psalmist felt that way. But notice that he has two answers to when we have had our fill.
First – we need to lift up our eyes and keep them on God. When we have had our fill of everything we might have the tendency to put God in with those things we’ve had enough of. This is the wrong move. Instead, we should lift our eyes up – away from what has overwhelmed us – and keep them on God. I don’t know about you but I needed to be reminded to keep my eyes on God this week.
Second, notice the Psalmist’s prayer in verse 3: Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy. When we have had our fill THIS should be our simple prayer. We are reminded here that God cares about what we are going through – and God cares that we have reached our limit.
So on this day when a lot of us have had our fill – lift your eyes to the Lord and pray for the Lord’s mercy. It’s so simple – but so effective.
God we admit to you that we have had our fill. And yet you remind us that you are here with us no matter what. Help us to keep our eyes on you this day. And have mercy on us.