PSALM 119:29: “Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.” NLT OBSERVATION: Today we live in a world of relativism. Relativism is defined in the following way.
Relativism:“The doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.” (Oxford Dictionary)
Let’s put it in street terms. I can believe what I want. Truth is not absolute. Your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth. It does not depend on facts. My truth depends on how I feel, where I live, what I desire, or what society says I should be. I can pick and choose truth from a menu, much like picking a meal at a smorgasbord restaurant.
Truth is not absolute – it is relative.
This is all fine and good at first glance. It creates a truth that is comfortable and fits me perfectly. I can adjust my truth when I feel like it and when the occasion demands it. I don’t have to worry about what others view as reality because they have the same opportunity as I do. At first glance, this seems very attractive, unless…
The truth I have embraced is really a lie!
If I am embracing a lie, if my truth is actually a falsehood, it will ultimately lead me to a place of disappointment, frustration, and destruction. As I buy into the social construct of relativism I find myself both deceived by a non-truth and I begin to lie to myself. I convince myself that my truth is real while it is merely a lie dressed up in my own making. I am headed for an emotional and spiritual cliff and I am not even aware of it.
During this pandemic we have heard a phrase so often it has become a part of our vocabulary. “Follow the science!” Yet, this too has been tainted by relativism. Those who say this do not do what they say. Our politicians and those in places of authority are not following the science, they are following the reality or definition of it that fits their narrative and personal agendas. The populace is lost in an ever-changing list of rules and regulations that are more emotionally driven than scientifically determined.
Science:“The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” (Oxford Dictionary)
Albert Einstien was one of the greatest scientists that ever lived. When he postulated the theory of relativity the scientific community mocked him. He was blocked from becoming a professor and began his career as a patent clerk. During these years he continued to write and explore his theories. Yet, they were only theories, and not science, until he was able to prove them absolutely with mathematics. Albert Einstein understood that truth was not relative, it was absolute. If it was true it could be proved and could not be altered!
Truth is absolute because it comes from a Creator. Science does not create truth it discovers the truth that already exists. This truth does not change. God does not change. God is not relative. God is absolute. If I choose to buy into false science and world views I find myself lying to myself and others. God loved us so much that He gave us both an intellect to explore truth, a world filled with His wonder, and the written Word of God as our guide.
The Psalmist declares,
“Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.”
This sounds like a pretty good prayer for us today!
Lord, keep me from the deception of relativism. Keep me from lying to myself. Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon me and allow me the privilege of discovering and knowing your truth. May I diligently search Your Word for every situation and for every decision that I make in my life? Keep me by Your Word for Your Word is the absolute expression of Your love!
JOHN 15:7-8: “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” NLT OBSERVATION: Have you ever hungered for a deeper prayer life? Would you like to see your prayers powerfully answered each time? Why were Jesus’ prayers always answered?
The key to answered prayer is not as difficult to discover as some may think.
Jesus’ disciples watched Jesus daily perform miracles. They witnessed Jesus breaking away to be alone in prayer with the Father. When He returned, they watched as He cast out demons, healed the sick, and fed thousands. At different times they would cry out – “Lord, increase our faith!”, and “Lord, teach us to pray!”. They wanted to understand the key to Jesus’ prayer life.
If we are all honest we have had times when our prayers were not answered. James tells us that many times we pray incorrectly, only to focus on our passions and needs. Whatever the case, we all have missed the mark in prayer. We have witnessed God’s hand in powerful answers to our prayers and we have shared in the disappointment of prayers that have seemed to go unanswered. Why is this?
In John chapter 15 Jesus uses the example of the vine and the branches to explain our relationship with the Father through Him. Jesus is the vine, the Father is the vine keeper, and we are the branches. The purpose of the vine is to bear fruit. The Father prunes the branches so that the dead, unproductive parts of the vine, are removed and the healthy stems can flourish. Here is where we begin to understand the key to answered prayer.
God uses His Word to prune our lives!
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.” John 15:1-3 NLT
Note that Jesus proclaims that it was the message He had given the disciples that had been used by the Father to prune their lives. Jesus came to proclaim and to clarify the will of the Father. Many times He said, “You have heard…but I say unto you…”. Life is a journey that we enter without a map. We can wander endlessly relying on trial and error, only to find ourselves hopelessly lost. Or, we can use that map of life that we have been given to lead us to our divine destiny.
This is true in life and it is true in prayer!
So many times we miss the prerequisites of our faith. These are not works that unlock God’s provision. Rather, they are the positioning of our hearts so that we can receive God’s grace and be transformed by the Spirit of God. There is a big difference between the two. One relies on our human effort. The other falls fully upon the grace and mercy of God! Jesus calls us to the latter.
“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”
The question that arises is – “How do I abide in God’s Word?” Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you…”. So, abiding in God’s Word has two components. We must abide in Jesus (in His love, His presence) before we can abide in His Word. God’s Word is never meant to be a textbook of promise verses through which we manipulate God to do what we desire. God’s Word is given as the expression of God’s love to us that we are meant to meditate upon and allow to change us from the inside out!
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” Hebrews 4:12-13 NLT
As we read God’s Word as His love letter to us, as we allow it to speak to our hearts, it brings us to a place of repentance, change, and then action. God’s Word alone can discern between the thoughts and intentions of our heart. When we are laid bare before the Lord through His Word we feel the loving hand of the vine keeper pruning us so that we can be fruitful in our lives and our prayers. Our focus is turned heavenward. Our requests become the echo of His heart rather than the misguided requests of our selfishness. And, as we abide in this position of prayer we realize that abiding in His Word is not complete without a tangible response.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you…You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:9-12, 16-17 NLT
So, let’s sum it all up. As we abide in Jesus Christ we abide in the Father’s love. The Father, who loves us, prunes our hearts through His Word. As we position our lives under His mercy and grace our hearts and motives are transformed by His Word. We grow in our communion and fellowship with God through His Word and the Holy Spirit and we respond with obedience to His commands. As our hearts are transformed we realize that the greatest call we have is to love God and love others. Our prayers begin to turn heavenward and become more intercession for others than supplication for ourselves. And, we find ourselves agreeing with God’s divine plan and seeing His Kingdom established on earth as it is in heaven.
We begin to see God’s power working as we agree with His purposes in our prayers! We discover the key to answered prayer!
Lord, forgive me for the many times that my prayer life has been self-centered. May my heart be captured by Your Word, Your love, and Your divine purposes. May I begin to pray in agreement with Your will and by Your direction? Help me to produce fruit, lasting fruit, so that I can bring glory to Your Name!
JOHN 11:33-37: “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” NLT OBSERVATION: Have you ever wondered how Jesus feels about death? Have you ever considered the depth of anguish that takes place in His heart when one of His creation dies? In John’s Gospel, we get some insight into Jesus’ heart regarding death.
Jesus was a relational person. He was not simply God walking among us, teaching us, and demanding that we obey Him. He loved His family and was a dear friend to many. One such close friendship was between Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Jesus had spent time with them in their home and loved them very much.
When Lazarus was sick, Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus. They did not demand anything of Jesus, but they knew as such a close friend He would want to know. Jesus could have run to their aid. However, the text says that He remained where He was for a couple of days and then went to see them.
“So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” John 11:5-7 NLT
A close examination of the text also reveals some information that at first is a bit troubling. Jesus knew that Lazarus would die. In fact, Lazarus was probably already dead by the time the messengers brought word to Jesus. It is believed that Jesus was about a day’s journey from their home. If we add a day for the messengers to get to Jesus, two days to delay, and then a day to travel to his home. This explains why, when Jesus finally traveled to their home, Martha told Jesus that Lazarus had been dead for four days.
Why did Jesus wait an additional two days before traveling to see his dear friends? Jesus knew Lazarus was dead but He also knew that God wanted to use this situation as a public example that the Son of God had power over death. By waiting the extra two days there would be no question that Lazarus was truly dead and his being raised from the dead was a miracle that could not be disputed. Jesus went to fulfill the Father’s plan to display His glory through His Son!
“But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John 11:4 NLT
As Jesus came near to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus’ home, Martha came out to meet Him. She cried – “Lord, if you only would have been here my brother would still be alive.” After this, Mary came to Jesus and said the same thing. Mary had come weeping and she was followed by many mourners who were wailing in sorrow behind her. When Jesus saw this, and as He grasped the depth of their sorrow, something strange is recorded.
“When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.”
Where was Jesus’ compassion? Where was Jesus’ understanding? Why was He filled with such deep anger? The answer is,
JESUS HATES DEATH!
Jesus saw what death does to the living. He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but when He saw the gripping sorrow of Mary and those accompanying her He was filled with righteous indignation against the works of Satan, the author of sin and death! Death is antithetical to Jesus. Jesus came so that we might experience life, and life to its fullest!
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10 NLT
Jesus was so overcome with this righteous anger, He was so moved by the sorrow that filled the hearts of those He loved, that as He looked upon them it is recorded,
“Then Jesus wept.” John 11:35 NLT
Jesus loves us so much that He came to conquer the power of death through His sacrificial death on the cross. He endured the full wrath of God against sin for us so that we could enter into the full blessing of life eternal with Him! Jesus hates death! Jesus expressed His righteous anger against death when He looked toward the place where they had buried Lazarus and cried,
“…Lazarus, come out!” John 11:43 NLT
Yet, Jesus does not just hate death in its final sense. Jesus hates everything that kills and destroys the divine purposes of the Father in us. His teaching, His commands, His life, and His example were given to us so that we could experience life on every level. When people reject the words of Jesus they are embracing a culture of death. Jesus came to defeat death on every level!
“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 NLT
“Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:31-32, 36 NLT
The gift of eternal life is not something that takes place when we die. It is something we receive when we believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord. His life is given so that we can have life as God intended. The thief, the enemy of our souls loves death. Jesus came to give us life. When we walk in the light of His truth we walk in the light of His life. Jesus paid it all so that we could live life to the fullest and experience eternal life!
PSALMS 107:41-43: “But he rescues the poor from trouble and increases their families like flocks of sheep. The godly will see these things and be glad, while the wicked are struck silent. Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.” NLT OBSERVATION: Dear Worship Leader…
Before I begin my thoughts I want to make two very important statements. First, I love to worship the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Second, I love worship leaders who devote themselves each week to leading God’s people to the throne of grace to offer praise, worship, and experience the presence of God. The following comments must be weighed by these two statements.
There are two statements that I would like to ask worship leaders to think about. The first is,
“We need to get used to worshipping the Lord because when we get to heaven we will be worshipping at His throne 24/7.”
This first statement shows the passion of the worship leader for what they are doing. However, it lacks a true Biblical basis in its premise. While we can glean from Revelation chapter 4 that there is always worship taking place around God’s throne, we cannot interpret this to mean that all we will do in heaven is stand around the throne and worship. The text is not meant to convey this idea and the balance of Scripture does not support it.
If God created man to be industrious before his fall into sin, can we imagine that God will have a different plan when He restores us from sin? The Scriptures tell us that the saints will be engaged with Jesus in ruling the nations. It sounds like we will be very busy in the new heavens and the new earth with the purposes and will of God. Work is not a product of man’s fall into sin. Work, sanctified work, creative work, fulfilling work, is the gift and call of God for mankind.
“To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them, I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star! “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” Revelation 2:26-29 NLT
The second statement I want to ask worship leaders to consider is the statement,
“God is good!”
Many times it is suggested that all we need to do is say “God is good” and all our troubles will simply be washed away. Is God good? Absolutely! Is God good all the time? Yes, every moment of every day! Then why do I have trouble with this statement?
Can I be honest? Sometimes I don’t feel like God is good. My circumstances don’t seem to mirror this truth. My emotions don’t echo this truth. I need something more than just a faith cheer to restore my heart in faith. I think if we are really honest this is true for all of us. Many times in their exuberance worship leaders will dismiss doctrine for a move of the spirit. Doctrine is not important. Our emotional response is all that matters.
To this, I would humbly suggest,
Worship without doctrine always leads to extremism.
Doctrine without worship always leads to legalism.
We need both!
“But he rescues the poor from trouble and increases their families like flocks of sheep. The godly will see these things and be glad, while the wicked are struck silent. Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”
The Psalmist calls us to worship and be glad in the Lord. Yet, he also states how those who are wise will do this. They will see in their history (the record of God’s Word) the faithful love of the Lord!”
Worship without truth will never sustain the hurting heart.
Truth without worship will never fire the hungry soul.
We need a balance of both!
“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 NLT
So, dear worship leaders. You are appreciated. You are essential. We need you to lead us to the throne of grace in spirit and truth. We need to sing songs that are filled with substance and call us to remember the covenant of hope we have in Jesus Christ. We need to proclaim the cross and celebrate the resurrection. And, we need to proclaim the hope and joy of heaven to come knowing that as He is, we will be!
While worship most certainly is not what we do for 30 minutes on a Sunday morning, while it is the totality of a life lived for Jesus Christ, what we do for these 30 minutes is essential. It is the difference between wandering in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water and coming to a refreshing stream where our bodies, souls, and spirits are refreshed in the presence of God.
Dear Worship Leader – Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts. I pray you will receive them in the love in which they were intended. May the Lord continue to bless you in your ministry and anoint you with a new song as you lead God’s people each week!
PSALMS 105:16-17: “He called for a famine on the land of Canaan, cutting off its food supply. Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them— Joseph, who was sold as a slave.” NLT OBSERVATION: Have you ever wondered – “Where is God?” You find yourself facing an extremely difficult situation, it looks like everything is working against you, and it seems like God is silent. You pray, you pour over the Bible, and you feel like you are in a dense fog unable to see the next step you are about to take. In all of this, the truth is…
GOD IS ALWAYS GOING BEFORE YOU!
Whenever we face times of uncertainty, whenever it seems like we are alone, we have God’s Word to remind us that God is always going before us. God gave us His Word for this very reason.
“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4 NKJV
Psalms 105 is one of these wonderful reminders. It gives us two examples of God’s faithfulness to go before us. The first is the example of Joseph. God always works on the long game. He had made a covenant with Abraham promising him that he would make of his descendants a mighty nation. The Lord knew exactly what it would take to make this happen. It would involve a famine and a relocation to a different land.
In all of this God was always one step ahead. He gave Joseph a vision of his future that would keep Joseph walking in faith, even through the most difficult of trials. And, He allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery and be taken to Egypt.
Joseph’s life is a history of wonderful provision and setbacks. Yet, in all of them, God was always going before him. As Joseph persevered in faith God rescued and elevated him to the position of second in Egypt. When God gave Pharaoh a dream of the coming famine, He also gave Joseph the interpretation and a plan. This plan would prove to be the very provision to bring Jacob and his brothers to the next step of their covenant fulfillment.
As 400 years passed, God’s people multiplied mightily. From dozens, they were now thousands. And, when a new Pharaoh, who did not remember Joseph turned against them, God had already gone before His covenant people to bring them His provision.
“He sent Moses His servant, And Aaron whom He had chosen. They performed His signs among them, And wonders in the land of Ham.” Psalms 105:26-27 NKJV
God’s plan to rescue Israel began when He sent Joseph. It continued when He moved the hearts of Moses’ mother to hide her child in a basket so her son would not be killed. And, His hand was upon Pharaoh’s daughter when she took him in as her own son and raised him in the courts of Egypt. This happened a full 80 years before God would send Moses and Aaron to lead His people to freedom.
GOD IS ALWAYS GOING BEFORE US!
As I look over my life I can see the hand of God always going before me. The problem I have is remembering His past faithfulness. It seems like the current struggle erases the former acts of His love from my memory. This is why I need to daily feed upon God’s Word. These words were written so that we would never forget and in our times of struggle, we could find hope.
Hope is trusting God for the things we cannot see. Hope is strengthened when we remember the things He has done. When we combine our faith with hope we can walk in confidence, even in the darkest of times. Paul learned this very well and this is why he could confidently say,
“Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.” II Corinthians 1:9-11 NKJV
Lord, as I walk through times of testing and discouragement, may I never forget that You are always going before me! The struggles I face are reminders that I must cast all my cares upon you. As I remember the times you have delivered me, as I walk in Your present grace and experience Your hand of provision, may I also walk in hope knowing that You will yet deliver me from all the challenges I have yet to face. Help me remember…
JOHN 7:7: “The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil.” NLT OBSERVATION: What was Jesus like? When we look at pictures of Jesus that have been painted they usually depict Him as a peaceful shepherd. When the world thinks of Jesus they usually refer to Him as a teacher and advocate of peace and philanthropy. In essence, the world has tried to sanitize the image of Jesus.
Jesus is all of the things noted above, but He was so much more. Jesus was a revolutionary figure. He came to the Jewish nation as God’s light to the world. And, the world He came to was mired in darkness and unbelief. Jesus’ very presence was a testimony of truth to a people who had moved far away from God’s truth. Immediately Jesus caught the attention of the religious leaders of Israel. And, this attention was not good!
Many do not see Jesus as a revolutionary. He did not come to lead the Jews in a military revolt against the Romans. He did not even get involved in the politics of His day. Jesus came as Messiah to the lost sheep of Israel. He came to call God’s chosen people back to the Father. He came to proclaim the truth of God’s word and nature to sheep who had wandered astray.
“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” John 3:18-21 NLT
Jesus was not a revolutionary because of what He did. Jesus was a revolutionary because of who He was. He was God, in human flesh, the Eternal Word coming to live among us. He was the true light that shines brightly in the darkness. His very nature, His very presence, His very words caused a revolution in the lives and hearts of mankind. And, the majority of those who heard Him would reject Him.
I find it amazing today that those who espouse that which is counter to God’s written word use the person of Jesus to hide behind. They pick and choose His actions and words to hide behind. They try to turn His light into darkness. Yet, the light of Jesus’ life, words, and actions shine brightly against such insincere attempts!
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:5 NLT
If we want to understand Jesus we need to listen to His own words. In Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, He prays,
“I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” John 17:14-19 NLT
Jesus came to start a revolution. It was not a revolution against political parties, armies, or nations. It was a revolution of truth. It was a revolution against the darkness of sin. It was a revolution of the true love of God. John writes in His epistles, we cannot love this world and love God at the same time. We cannot try to sanitize Jesus and make Him someone who fits our lifestyle. We must come to Him as the Lord of truth and humble ourselves before Him in sincere repentance.
The enemy knows that without the knowledge of sin there will be no conviction of sin. Without the conviction of sin, there will be no repentance. And, without repentance, there will be no faith unto salvation. Satan too is a revolutionary. He is a revolutionary of darkness. He is the driving force behind the sanitization of the life and image of Jesus. He will do anything he can to try and hide the light of life from the eyes of sinful man.
It is time that believers all over the world reclaim the revolution of truth! It is time that we let our lights shine brightly in a world filled with darkness. It is time that we count the cost and be willing to suffer for the cause of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not tiptoe around darkness – He exposed it! He did this boldly with His words and with His love. We are called to do the same!
“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:15-16 NLT
Lord, help me to proclaim the living and risen Christ! Help me to boldly stand up for the truth and let my light shine. And, help me to resist the attempts of the enemy to not only sanitize the image of Jesus, but also his attempts to sanitize the image of what a follower of Jesus Christ should be like. Give me grace to live boldly and in the power of Your Holy Spirit!
JOHN 3:3: “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” NLT OBSERVATION: What is so “good” about – Good Friday? How can Christians all over the world celebrate a day when their Lord was brutally beaten and nailed to a cross to die? Is Good Friday a day to mourn or a day to celebrate? The answer can be found in Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus.
Has anyone ever asked you the question – “When you die, will you go to heaven?” How did you answer this question? Jesus made it very clear to Nicodemus when He said,
“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
The Kingdom of God is synonymous with heaven and eternal life. This was such a profound statement that Nicodemus was taken back by it. He had come to Jesus at night to speak with Jesus about spiritual things. Nicodemus was a leader of his people and a devout Pharisee. He had studied the law from his youth. He knew the Scriptures. Why did Jesus begin the discourse with such a cryptic statement?
In this statement, we can learn so much. No one goes to heaven when they die because of the stature they achieved in this life. Nicodemus was a Jewish leader. This alone would not give him eternal life. And, no one goes to heaven because they are religious, go to church, or do good deeds. Nicodemus was not only a devout Jew, he was a part of one of the strictest sects in Judaism – the Pharisees. Finally, no one goes to heaven simply because they acknowledge God. Nicodemus also acknowledged God, but it was not enough!
“…Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” John 3:2 NLT
It was after this statement that Jesus replied – “…unless you are born again, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” While Nicodemus struggled with this statement, Jesus took it to the next level. What He said next probably really threw Nicodemus for a loop!
“No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” John 3:13-15 NLT
I am sure when Nicodemus heard this he was really confused. He acknowledged that God was with Jesus. Yet, this is much different than Jesus claiming that He came down from heaven. And, what does it mean that the Son of Man must be lifted up? In this statement, Jesus referred to His crucifixion. As Moses lifted up the serpent on a pole in the wilderness to stop a plague, so the Son of Man must be lifted up on the cross to break the power of sin.
This is why Good Friday is – GOOD!
Without the cross, there could be no forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there could be no rebirth. And, without rebirth, there would be no eternal life. Jesus followed up these words to Nicodemus with the most famous verse in the entire Bible.
“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. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 NLT
God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die. Jesus, born of the Holy Spirit, came to live among us, experience all of our sufferings and weakness, and take the penalty of the sin of mankind upon Himself as He died upon the cross. The punishment and death were of the most horrific nature. Yet, they were good. They were good because without this supreme act of kindness and love no one could go to heaven when they die!
To be born again one has to realize that all of their human efforts cannot save them. This is called repentance. When we realize that even our grandest achievements are but filthy rags compared to the holiness and goodness of God, we are poised to receive the gift of eternal life. When we place our faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross and His victorious resurrection, something miraculous takes place in our lives!
“Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 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.” John 3:5-8 NLT
As we celebrate this day we call Good Friday, I want to ask you a question. Have you been born again? Do you have the assurance that when you die you will experience eternal life? Are you walking in the hope of this eternal life each day and experiencing His abundant life through the Holy Spirit? Are you willing to lay down all of your achievements and self-righteousness so that you can be clothed with His great love and true righteousness?
Will this Good Friday be GOOD for you?
Lord, I pray that we will all look upon Your cross with great reverence and also great rejoicing. Your supreme sacrifice has opened heaven’s doors to all who will believe. Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us today and upon all those who hear Your words,
“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
JOHN 1:29-34: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God. ” NLT OBSERVATION: Today, on the church calendar, we celebrate Maundy Thursday. While many churches do not recognize the traditional name that has been used over the centuries, they do recognize the events of this day. These events are recorded in John chapter 13.
“Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.” John 13:1-5 NLT
On this final night before Jesus was crucified, He washed the disciple’s feet and then celebrated the Passover meal with them. It was after this that He would be betrayed, taken into custody, and rushed through a sham trial so He could be crucified before the Sabbath. What does all of this have to do with John the Baptist and the question – “Do I see Jesus?” Everything!
John the Baptist grew up with Jesus. He was only about 6 months older than Jesus and was a near relative. We do not have any Biblical record of their interaction. However, one could postulate that Jesus traveled with John and their extended family when He was young as they pilgrimaged to Jerusalem for the feasts. Jesus grew up to be a carpenter. John grew up to be a prophet. Everything seemed very ordinary until the day John looked upon Jesus approaching the Jordan river and declared,
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.”
What happened at this moment? John knew Jesus. Yet, on this day John saw Jesus for the very first time! God gave John the revelation of who Jesus was. He was not merely a relative, a carpenter from Nazareth. Jesus was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world! We know this was a revelation from God because John says,
“I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God. ”
Now we come full circle to this Maundy Thursday as we commemorate Jesus’ last celebration of the Last Supper with His disciples. Here was the Lord, the Messiah, standing before them as a common servant. A towel tied around His waist, kneeling before them to wash their feet. An unlikely picture of the Messiah they were looking for. It was so unusual that Peter blurted out,
“…No…you will never ever wash my feet!” John 13:6-8 NLT
Peter did not see Jesus. The disciples did not see Jesus. And, Judas Iscariot surrendered to Satan and planned to betray Jesus. Later that evening they would all desert Jesus as He was arrested and taken to the Sanhedrin. Peter, the rock, would deny Jesus three times. They would look upon Jesus as He hung on a cross and die right before their very eyes. And, they would retreat in defeat and doubt as all of their hopes were crushed and the Messiah they believed in was buried.
On Sunday morning all of that would change!The stone was rolled away and Jesus was alive. Yet, it still did not change the way some saw Jesus. There is one section in the Gospel of Matthew that always troubles me. Jesus, risen from the dead, stands before them as He prepares to give them final instructions and return to heaven. As they listen to Jesus it is recorded,
“…When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!” Matthew 28:16-17 NLT
How could some still doubt? How could the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the risen Lord, stand before them and some still doubt? The answer is they could not see Jesus. They saw Him with their physical eyes, much like John the Baptist saw Jesus all of his life. Yet, unlike John the Baptist, they did not receive the gift of revelation to see Jesus as the Lord of life. Without this revelation, the events of the last week of Jesus’ life are merely a story, to some a fable, unless they receive this revelation from the Father!
Everyone has doubts. Thomas, who walked with Jesus for three years had doubts. He did not believe the reports of Peter and the other disciples. He was adamant,
“…I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” John 20:25 NLT
Jesus met Thomas at his point of doubt. Jesus said to Thomas,
“…Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” John 20:27-29 NLT
John the Baptist was unsure of who Jesus was. The eleven disciples, even after three years, struggled to understand who Jesus was. Judas Iscariot never discovered who Jesus was. And, some, who even saw the risen Lord doubted who Jesus was. Yet, for everyone who looked upon Him in faith, God the Father opened their eyes to see Jesus!
John the Baptist would die knowing that he had prepared the way of the Lord. The eleven disciples would be persecuted and most of them martyred for their unfailing faith in Jesus. Something happened when they saw Jesus! Their lives were forever changed. They stepped from death into life. There was nothing that could separate them from the love of God. And, they live eternally with Him in heaven.
Who do you see on this Maundy Thursday? Are you confused when you look at a humble servant? Do you struggle over His words during the Last Supper? Do you look at the cross and see defeat and doubt the empty tomb? Or – through eyes of faith – do you see Jesus?
The gift of revelation is not given to us because we are better than others. The gift of revelation is given to those who understand that they are sinners in need of a Savior. The gift of revelation is when we come to the cross, lay down our burdens and sins, and ask the risen Lord Jesus into our hearts. Revelation is the gift of faith and it is available to everyone!
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” John 1:12-13 NLT
“In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Romans 10:8-11 NLT
As we commemorate the historical events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday, what will you see? My prayer is that – YOU WILL SEE JESUS!
DEUTERONOMY 8:3: “Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” NLT OBSERVATION: Is there a reason for the times of wilderness wandering in our life? Why does God allow us to go through prolonged periods of testing? How should I respond when I find myself in these difficult times? How does the lesson of manna speak to these questions?
The children of Israel were slaves in the land of Egypt. They were ruled by cruel taskmasters and forced to do heavy labor. They cried out to the Lord for His deliverance. God did deliver them but then it seemed like they went from the fire into the frying pan. At least when they were slaves in Egypt they had plenty to eat!
Hungry, thirsty, and alone in a desert land, the children of Israel began to grumble and complain. They began to long for the leeks and onions they had enjoyed in Egypt. They cried out for food and the Lord heard their cry. He provided them with a miraculous food – manna from heaven!
“The Israelites called the food manna. It was white like coriander seed, and it tasted like honey wafers.” Exodus 16:31 NLT
Six days a week the Lord would provide manna for the children of Israel. They would rise each morning and it would be covering the ground like dew. They were to gather up only what they needed and not leave any until the next morning. On the sixth day, before the Sabbath, they were to gather up twice as much, for there would be no manna on the Sabbath.
The manna was given as a test of their willingness to obey the Lord’s commands. At first, some were greedy and gathered more than they needed. When they awoke the next morning they found that the leftover manna was filled with worms. Then, others disobeyed God’s command and went looking for manna on the Sabbath. Yet, they found none and no doubt that day they had to do without because they had failed to gather twice as much the day before. All of this was to test their willingness to obey the Lord.
“Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.” Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT
Yet, manna was given for something more than just a test and training for obedience. There was a spiritual component that we must not miss. This spiritual component is seen in Deuteronomy 8:3 and it is magnified as we hear it again in the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Even the Son of God learned obedience through the things that He suffered!
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:1-4 NLT
The lesson of the manna was more than a lesson of mere obedience. It was a lesson of the true provision of life that God has given to us. And, it was a lesson of when we need to partake of this provision.
Satan tried to trick Jesus into meeting His physical needs before attending to His spiritual needs. Jesus responded with God’s Word from this chapter in Deuteronomy – “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The manna that God provided each day was a reminder of the true source of life. It came from heaven just as God’s Word comes from heaven. Each day they gathered it was to be a reminder that God’s Word was their true source of life. When they obeyed God’s Word there was provision and blessing.
“Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus. Matthew 4:8, 10-11 NLT
Jesus, the Son of God, endured trial and temptations just as we do. The victory that He experienced was not through meeting the needs of the flesh but by partaking of the manna from heaven – the Word of God! Jesus, as fully God, and fully man, overcame the trials of life just as we can. Too many times we get preoccupied with the need and we miss the provision. The provision for our victory never comes from what we do. It always comes from heaven. It always comes from the true manna – the living and abiding Word of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Heavenly Father, help me to learn the lesson of the manna. Help me to seek You each morning as I begin my day. May I hunger to fill my spirit with Your Word before I fill my stomach with food. As I walk through times of trial and testing, help me to always remember that You never stop providing the manna of Your Word to teach, lead, and strengthen me. In prolonged times of testing may I trust You fully and recognize that Your Word is sufficient!
LUKE 21:1-4: “While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” NLT OBSERVATION: Do I have a giving heart? Am I truly trusting God and putting Him first in everything I do? Or, am I like those Jesus observed who simply were giving from their surplus. They were giving only what they did not need. Jesus contrasted these rich people with one poor widow who dropped in two small coins.
I always wondered about these two small coins. After doing some reading on the subject I realized they were not simply the equivalent of two pennies. Two pennies have virtually no worth at all. It would be just as easy to give away two pennies as it was for the rich to give of their surplus. What were these two small coins really worth?
The two coins were what was known as a lepta. It was the smallest coin in circulation during this time. The two lepta were worth about 1/64 of a denarius. A denarius was the wage for a common day’s work by a laborer. If we put that into today’s terms we can get a better perspective on what these two coins were worth.
For sake of illustration, we will use $15.00 per hour as a laborer’s wage. The average workday was about 12 hours in Jesus’ day. This would equate to $180.00 in today’s money. Two lepta would be equivalent to 1/64 of $180.00, or $2.81 for a 12 hour day, or $2.00 for an 8 hour day. This is significantly more than two pennies.
Today, $2.00 could buy a sandwich at Mcdonalds, or a couple of tacos at Taco Bell. However, $2.00 would not go very far in providing for building repairs at your local church. The widow’s $2.00 was worth almost nothing to the Temple treasury, but it was everything to her. When she placed it in the free-will offering she was doing much more than giving up her last $2.00. This widow was proclaiming her faith and devotion to God in a humble act of worship.
The widow knew that this small amount of money could not sustain her for long. No doubt she was used to poverty in her state. Yet, from her action, we can glean that she had learned what to do when faced with adversity. She knew that the last $2.00 she held in her hand could do more for her as she laid it upon the altar, than if she kept it in her pocket out of fear for what lay ahead. She knew that only God could rescue her at this juncture in her life.
We do not have any record of what happened to this widow. I don’t believe she stumbled into a windfall of money from her sacrificial gift. However, there are two things I am certain of. First, she touched the heart of her Heavenly Father. And, second, I know that God provided for her needs each and every day of her life from this moment forward.
When Jesus asked the disciples to feed the 5000, they did not respond like this courageous widow. Instead, they looked at their lack, rather than at God’s supply.
“But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” For there were about 5,000 men there. Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” So the people all sat down. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers!” Luke 9:13-17 NLT
When they surrendered their measly five loaves and two fish to Jesus they placed themselves in the position to receive a miracle from God. When Jesus blessed this small provision, and when probably a crowd of over 20,000, including women and children, ate their fill, they gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers. What seemed like nothing in their hands became the source of blessing in Jesus’ hands!
This widow was poor financially, but I believe these two small coins opened the provision of God’s continual flow of care and blessing in her life. Just like the widow with Elijah, when she gave up her last cake to provide for God’s servant, the Lord miraculously provided a continual provision of flour and oil throughout the entire famine that was in the land. When we seek the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (including our resources) – He always meets us at our point of need!
“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NLT
I wish we knew more about this courageous woman. Yet, what we know is more than what we really need. If we truly hear the words of Jesus, if we look into her heart of faith, if we discover the joy of giving in a way that is led by the Spirit and pleases the heart of God, then we too will discover the blessing of God’s continual outpouring of provision and grace.
Lord, thank you for the testimony of this wonderful woman of faith. Grant me the grace to hold the resources you have entrusted to me with an open hand. May I respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading to give with a cheerful heart of faith. When I look at the needs around me, help me not to focus on what I don’t have, but on what You can do when I place even the smallest of resources I do have into Your powerful hand!