What are you and I devoted to? In our family, our devotion spreads across many categories including: football, sports in general, working out, and certain tv shows. I am basing this on where our time, money and conversation is spent. The literal translation of “devote” is to give up or appropriate to or concentrate on a particular pursuit, occupation, purpose or cause. I easily see “devotion” all around me and you can too. We see people devoted to animal rights. We see people devoted to the cause of sex trafficking. We see people devoted to “saving the earth” with recycling, saving forests, etc.
Today, Luke tells us what the disciples and those surrounding them were devoted to. It was prayer. They were “constantly devoting themselves to prayer.” What does that mean? Did they gather 24/7 and just pray-no work, no eating, no sleeping? No, that would be impossible-but let’s go back to our examples of devotion and to the Bible to figure this out. In human devotion from our examples-money, time, effort, writing, reading and sometimes hard labor are involved in the devotion for a cause. Biblically, we are told to be “constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:11), “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17), and bring “everything” in prayer (Phil. 4:6). There are actions and a timeline. To be devoted in prayer like Jesus followers were, we will sometimes spend money (perhaps for a book on prayer, to hear a speaker talk on prayer, or maybe on a prayer app). We will spend time and effort-sacrificing other activities which may include sleep, watching tv or hanging with friends-to have some prayer time. We may gather with others for group prayer about a specific prayer request or just as a family. We may write our prayers down to stay on track or read someone else’s prayers. And, we will be doing any or all of these things a LOT- constantly, without ceasing, with everything in our lives. Nothing is out of bounds for prayer.
So, are you devoted to prayer? Am I? If this was worthwhile for the disciples and other followers, obviously it is a spiritual discipline that should be part of our lives. I can tell you though, this will not come naturally. I am still learning, and had to force my self to make this a priority before I even began to see its importance. It took even longer for me to actually desire prayer time. It has taken me 49 years to see the critical nature of prayer. I hope it takes you a lot less time. Prayer is another vital component to our spiritual life and growth. Are you devoted to it yet?
What about him? “ Have you ever gotten in trouble for something but your friends did not? I imagine this has happened to all of us at least once. When this happens, no doubt the child’s cry “that’s not fair!” comes to our mind.
Peter apparently had a little “that’s not fair” thoughts going on in today’s Scripture. Jesus is visiting with the disciples after his resurrection. He has just had a one-on-one talk with Peter about taking care of his “sheep” once he is gone. Jesus alludes to Peter that he will follow in his steps of death as well. He finishes by saying to Peter, “Follow me.” Peter then asks the “what about him?” question. The “him” is John, who was behind them literally following Jesus at that moment. I am not exactly sure what Peter meant by his question. Was he asking “what is going to happen to him” out of curiosity? Was he concerned that his friend, may face a difficult physical death as well? Was he jealous that he had to go through a difficult death and that maybe John would not? Was he really saying, “That’s not fair!”?
I do not know the answer to these questions , but based on Jesus response to Peter, I don’t think Peter’s question was solely loving towards John. Jesus responds to Peter by NOT answering his question as to what will happen to John, and basically saying that really, it was not any of Peter’s business. He wanted Peter to concentrate on what God had set before him, and solely on that. Peter was to “feed my sheep” as Jesus had asked him to do. This was God’s will for Peter, and that was enough to keep him busy.
This is difficult for all of us. To focus on what God has set before us, and not what others around us are doing. Perhaps they are receiving blessings in an area we are struggling. It may not seem “fair”. Refocus on what God has called us to. He will take care of those around us. Also, if you notice in the verse above, there is mention of “rumor.” We most likely don’t know the whole story of those around us or perhaps the story is not wholly true. (The rumor was that John would not die-but it was only that, a rumor.) This is another reason to stick to God’s will for us. We are called to “follow Him” and that may look different for every person. For Peter-it included an upside down crucifixion. For John, it included an exile to the island Patmos. What does “following Jesus” mean for you and I today? It may mean feeding the sheep God has put in your life-being a light to those around you, setting an example, controlling our tongues, or showing our joy of life in Christ. I don’t know. That is ok-because it seems Jesus just wants me to concentrate on what He has called me to do. I trust God will make clear to you what you are to be doing if you seek and ask. One thing I do know for sure-God is always “fair” in the end-so there is no point in crying, “That’s not fair!”
A few weeks ago there was news about a school resource officer who was arrested for the way he handled a female student in a high school. A short video clip was posted all over the internet of him “dragging her” from her desk. One small interview I saw noted that there was more to the video that we were not getting to see. She said we were only seeing a small portion. They also noted that none of the students protested what he was doing, or were yelling at him as if he was wrong. The reporter suggested that perhaps, based on these things, what this student had done beforehand required this strong treatment. I am not saying it did, I am just saying this is a possibility. My point in this is, we don’t know. We don’t know because those who posted the short clip only wanted us to see the this specific part. They were making a point with their choice of the video selected.
I am not a fan of the media-they do this all the time, and I most often see it used to hide the truth. Consider, though, the fact that we all give certain information out to others for a purpose. When you and I are telling a story, we don’t tell every single word or action, we only tell the important parts. We tell what is necessary to shed light on the subject. This is what John tells us he is doing as well in the gospel of John. He is truthful that he has not included all the facts, or in this case in the verse above, he has not written about every single “sign” or miracle that Jesus did. (see verse 30) His stated intent is to give us enough information so that we can see Jesus for who He is-the Messiah and the Son of God AND so that by seeing this, we too, will believe and have life.
This is important for us to realize. In a broad sense, this is why God (who inspired all of John’s writings) gives us all the information He has given us in the Bible. It is there so that we will believe and have life. Remember this when you wonder things like “why aren’t there pictures of Jesus.” Its because we don’t need them to believe and have life. When you wonder why God didn’t specifically write down and send you a note about who you should marry or what college to go to consider it is because you have enough information to believe and have life. The point of God’s writings ultimately is so that we can see Jesus for who He is to believe and have life-here on earth and eternal life. That is the message for us and the message He wants us to share with others. Life is found in Christ-the Christ who is the Messiah and Son of God. It is found in no other-and this is clearly spelled out in the Bible for all.
Are you familiar with the term “GTD”? It stands for “Getting Things Done”. David Allen is the guru for a particular method where he teaches people how to accomplish goals by a specific method of “to-do” lists and goal-setting. We all have goals in life we want to accomplish. Right now for you 3, it is good grades and graduating. What steps are you taking to reach these goals? Studying, doing homework, doing well on tests and quizzes, attending classes, taking notes and much more. By doing these things, you should reach your goals successfully.
Hopefully, though, you and I have a greater goal for our lives than just graduation. Spiritually speaking, I am referring to the goal of “bearing fruit” for the kingdom. Here is the question though-just as graduating takes daily steps, what are the equivalent daily steps to “bearing fruit”? It is “abiding”. Jesus tells us to “abide in me” and spells out clearly that we will not bear fruit unless we abide in “the vine”, which is Jesus. So, what would you write down in a planner in regards to this goal? What is the equivalent to “studying” or “taking notes” in regards to abiding in Jesus?
I will let Jesus explain. Look at John 15:7a. We are told “if you abide in me and my words abide in you…” His words have to abide in us. This is a major way we abide in the vine. I am convinced, as you all know, this is Scripture memorization. I am convinced that we are to be actively memorizing and hiding God’s Word in our hearts, and that without that daily practice on our “to-do” list, it will be VERY difficult if not impossible, to abide in the vine. God made this clear to me in a John Piper message a few years ago which I highly recommend called: If My Words Abide in You. We all need to be memorizing God’s Word.
There really is no avoiding it. Having the Bible on your phone to reference, a hard copy nearby or even a message on a podcast is NOT the same as having the Word of God abide in your heart. The Bible is clear on this (Ps. 119:11). Jewish children probably knew more Scripture by heart than any of us-just consider what Mary quotes in Luke when she is praising God with Elizabeth (Luke 1:46-55). Consider what the Puritans knew, or other men of God today like John Piper, David Platt, and Joe Focht. There is no getting around it. If we are serious about abiding in Christ so that we bear fruit for His kingdom, memorizing God’s Word will be a permanent “to-do” in our planner. We don’t have to be good at it, it may not come easy, and it is ok if it takes an entire year to memorize one verse. Excuses like “I can’t”, “It’s too hard”, or “I don’t have time” don’t hold water according to the verse above. If we are not at least trying to memorize, then I find it hard to believe based on Jesus’ words in John today that we are abiding in the vine and will be able to bear much fruit at all.
I love John 14:15. It is short, sweet and totally to the point. I memorized this verse about 20 years ago while teaching a Bible study called Experiencing God. Not every one is a fan of this study, but there are some gems I learned in it that I will never forget. This is no doubt one of them. In a world of double-speak, infinite hypocrisy, people like Donald Trump calling themselves a Christian, and more-we can use this verse as a plumb line to see through it all. Does the person who claims to be a Christian (by definition-a follower of Christ) do what Jesus says? A person who truly is a Christian will keep Jesus commandments. Commandments like what? Here are just a few examples:
- Pray without ceasing.- a prayer life that is more than grace before a meal (I Thess. 5:16)
- Love their enemies- in practical terms-show kindness to enemies, no slander or speaking badly about people we don’t like or don’t get along with. (Matt. 5:44)
- Abhor what is evil. –dislike, conviction and avoidance of evil (sin) whether it is in books, online, texts, movies or even general conversation. (Rom 12:9)
- Outdo one another in showing honor-in other words, raise others up, not yourself, a person’s focus would be on others. (Rom 12:10)
- Let another praise you and not yourself-no bragging or posting about how great we are or our achievements. Always leave that to others, and give God the glory for anything we may accomplish. (Prov. 27:2)
Of course, this list could go on and on. There are thousands of commands from Jesus in the Bible, and I consider this to extend to His commands and instruction in terms of all biblical truth. It is very important we know them. Why? God-willing you will be finding a spouse someday. Right now you are all on a Christian campus where I would venture to guess 99.9% of the people say they are Christians. You will need to know who really is, not just who says they are. A strong marriage built on the foundation of the Lord will take a spouse who gives you more than empty words. Little to no obedience to Christ and biblical principles means no heart transformed by Christ. God says to not be unequally yoked-how will you know if you are stepping into an unequal relationship if you can’t tell who really is or is not a Christian?
Spouse choice is not the only reason. It is always good to look inward when we read the Bible as well and see what God is teaching us-through his Word and with the Holy Spirit’s counsel as we read. Do we ourselves show signs of being a Christian? Do we “keep” his commands-if we do, then we clearly love Him. If we don’t, then we have some self-examination to do to see if we truly are in the family of God at all. Saying something is one thing-doing it is what makes it truth or dispels it as a lie.
Visiting with Miriam this weekend we talked about the upcoming holidays. She hopes to work at Texas Roadhouse over break. She would like to move up to a “server” or waitress position. This means she will be taking people’s orders, making sure they understand the menu, and of course, serve them their food.
The fact though is- she is already a server, just not at Texas Roadhouse yet. You and I are as well. Anyone who claims to be a Christian must be a server. They are to be serving Jesus Christ on a daily basis. When Jesus days were drawing shorter on earth, as He faced his impending crucifixion and death, He tried to make this clear to His disciples. He tells us in John today that “whoever serves me must follow me.” So, is this an option? Are there two types of Christians: those who serve Him and those who choose not to? I don’t think so. The fact these men were called his disciples assumes they are serving Him. He is only further explaining what that entails. Those who serve Him must follow Him. The server of Jesus has to walk behind him in the same “footsteps”, in His “ways.” His ways are spelled out clearly in the Bible. The disciples knew them, and we know the ways as well.
This begs the question, are we serving? Are we serving well? Are we following Him? In yours and my life specifically-today in fact-how did you serve Him? For me, although my morning is not exactly on track time-wise, I am making time to read His Word and pray-before I do the other stuff I want to do. I then am going to do a few things dad asked me to do because as dad’s wife and by God’s mandate, I am to be his “help-mate”-and help him. I will also be submitting to his authority and doing what He asks of me, because that is one “way” I can follow Christ and what He has laid out for me as a wife in Scripture. Are you submitting to your authorities as God and Jesus ask you? Are you respecting the authorities today? Are you and I obeying the authorities by adhering to the speed limit laws, or by not talking in class when the teacher is giving instruction? Maybe the “following of Jesus” today for you means serving by saying no to something that Jesus has told you to stay away from or saying yes to something you don’t necessarily want to do but you know is right. (ie: Befriending that “odd” person, or not sharing that crude joke or meme.) Whatever it is, let us serve well. The tips for this type serving are far better than what any server would get at a restaurant. Jesus says God will honor those who serve Him. May we serve well today.
Last night I finished a book called “Look Again.” After seeing the face of her adopted son on a missing child photo, she suspects that he was actually kidnapped as a baby and put up illegally for adoption. If it is true, she will lose him. The story has many twists and turns, and in the end, something happens that I was not expecting at all, not in my wildest dreams.
Thats what I want to consider today. Those times we are totally wrong in what we are thinking, and I mean COMPLETELY wrong. I want us to consider this with God, because today I see this happening to Thomas in the verses above. Jesus tells him Lazarus is dead. We know Lazarus will be raised from the dead, but remember, Thomas did NOT know. Thomas takes all this in, hears Jesus say, “let us go to him” and may have concluded that since Lazarus is dead, the only way they can “go to him” is for them to die too.He jumps to the conclusion that he must go with Jesus to die. The idea of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead never entered his mind. I am not knocking Thomas for his thoughts-I am pretty sure I would have been right there with him. It just shows me a real life illustration of how “His ways are not our ways.” (Is. 55:8) God’s way are often COMPLETELY foreign to us, so much so that His ways often will not even enter our minds.
Why does this matter? Because lots of times, we will encounter situations in life, that no matter which way we look at it, none of the outcomes are good. This is why God tells us in Proverbs to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6) Our understanding will never be enough. In tough times, when no answer is a good one, it is important we focus on following God, his Word and TRUST Him to direct our paths. He understands whatever is going on, and there is a very good likelihood that God has something “up His sleeve” that is literally beyond our wildest dreams. I doubt that anyone would have said Lazarus death was a “good thing”…that is until he was brought back to life, and they got a much more vivid picture of Christ as God. Looking back, I bet they would all say that ending was way “better”! We must stand on this truth, especially when our ways have no “happy ending.” His ways are always best, and if we are trusting, obeying and following along His path, then we too may find life where we very much expected to be facing the death of something!
Aaron watches the Walking Dead…and I have seen some of the episodes as well. Right now, they are living in a town surrounded by walls, but the zombies appear to be coming in. Zombies have one goal-to kill and destroy them. In fact, to kill and destroy anything. This is literally the only thing on their minds.
It is exactly the same with Satan. That is ALL he wants to do and I think we can so often miss this. His sole purpose in any part of our lives is to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus pointed this out in John today and he makes it so clear. I couldn’t help thinking though, that unlike zombies-who are completely grotesque, and easily seen as something we should flee and run from, Satan comes in beauty. He is attractive. He makes sin attractive. VERY attractive. It looks fabulous-but the end result is always death and destruction. I wish we could see it for what it was-because that would make it much easier to run from. Unfortunately, we don’t. Men see women who are more exciting, beautiful, interesting than their wives. They spend time with them which is fun for a short time, and leave in their wake the destruction: Destroyed marriages and families. Drinking at parties “helps” everyone have so much “fun”, but leaves death from alcohol related accidents or destruction of lives due to promiscuous relationships that occurred while someone was under the influence. Closer to home, what about the lure of physical relationships in school-and the draw of that “fun”. Sadly all that “fun” leads to ruined self-images of friends, destruction of their reputations, impurity for someone else’s future husband/wife and horrendous guilt of sin that cannot be escaped.
If only we could see as clearly as Jesus saw that Satan is a thief only out to destroy. The alternative? Life. Life with Jesus and in Jesus. This was Jesus point in this whole part of Scripture. That His way is life-from every angle. Joy, peace, and stability regardless of circumstances, if we will follow the Shepherd where He leads us as opposed to letting the thief come in to steal, kill and destroy. Let’s try to look beyond the momentary pleasures and see Satan’s schemes for what they are: Zombies out to destroy and kill us and nothing more.
Stumbling is no fun. I told you all that this weekend when I was walking I wasn’t watching where I was going, stumbled down a step and fell. As I mentioned, it was not pretty. No doubt, it would have won many awards on AFV for sure! I looked ridiculous and I don’t know how Mrs. K. and Mrs. M. did not laugh, except that it was so awkward they thought I had hurt myself!
Stumbling in our Christian walk is no fun either, but it does happen. Today, in John, we have on record a woman who had “really fallen” so to speak. Not only had she made some atrocious sinful choices, but everyone was pointing their finger at her. Thankfully, Jesus shows compassion on her in front of everyone and restores her. We hear a lot about this part of the story, but the final sentence in John 8:11 is what I want to think about today. Jesus didn’t just restore her and say “I forgive you, have a nice day!”-he said, “from now on do not sin.” There was to be change. He had compassion but also an expectation. This should be our reaction to sin-a decision and desire to change.
I found it especially interesting that just a little further down in the chapter, we read verse 31 about those who want to follow Jesus are those who continue in his Word. These two verses to me seem so closely related-as if the woman’s life indicates what Jesus is trying to teach the disciples. Those who call themselves “Christian” will in essence “prove it” by walking in His ways. Many around us say they are a Christian. Does their life show evidence of being a disciple? Do they seek to “continue in the word?” Jesus made it very clear here-that true disciples continue in His word. Did the woman do what he asked, and “sin no more?” In this case, he was speaking directly to her turning away from extramarital affairs, and it wouldn’t be very hard to know if she did or did not. The people in her town I am sure could verify to you and I if she “continued” in Jesus’ words or not. They could tell you and I if she became a disciple of Jesus or not by her continuing lifestyle.
Our friends can tell if we are disciples too by the exact same thing. Do we “continue” in his Word? Do we heed what we read in the Bible and do it? Do we “sin no more” when confronted with our own sin? Stumbling will happen to all of us. The question is, once we get back up, do we go back down the same “step”, or do we choose a different path so we can avoid stumbling again? Our choices will always be the evidence as to whether we are really Jesus disciple or not.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.
Think back to the last time you flew on an airplane to go somewhere. Each passenger must meet certain standards. They must have bought a ticket. They are allowed 1 bag for free and it’s size is limited. Only ticketed passengers with their ID are allowed through the gate.
This is the best comparison I can come up with for what it was like to go to the temple in Jesus day. It was a specific location, and depending on “who” you were, you were only allowed up to a certain point. Samaritans and gentiles certainly didn’t have the credentials to get to the places where the Jews could. The problem was, they wanted to worship God too. Worshiping God in that day meant going to a physical location and worshiping with certain distinct actions. But today, in our Scriptures, Jesus explains how that all changed with His arrival. He is speaking to the woman at the well and says, “now the time has come.” The time has come when there is no longer a specific physical “location” to worship God. Do you see what it changed to?
With Jesus arrival, worship of God was eternally altered. It was changed to worship in “spirit and in truth”. This had to be greatly appealing to the woman at the well, who no doubt, had never been allowed in the temple. We live in that day. We live in the day of worshiping God in spirit and truth. This was a completely foreign concept to her, but should not be to you and I. We know with salvation, we receive the Holy Spirit. Truth is the Word of God. We have both with us all the time, don’t we? We do not have to “go” to church to worship God (although we can worship Him there)- instead of “going”, our whole lives are to be lives lived out with the Spirit of God, walking in the truth He is showing us day by day. Each morning is a new opportunity to let the Spirit guide us-to whisper truth in our ear when we are making a decision between right and wrong, and to choose right. When we walk in that truth and live out that truth by our actions (or restraint of actions)-we are fully worshiping God. This is what God seeks as per the verse. He seeks out those who are worshiping Him with their lives. Its not a location anymore-its our whole life!