Tag Archives: Gospels

rivers of living water

It was October, and time to remember Moses striking the rock in the wilderness. The people celebrated for a week. They slept in tents and each morning they would draw water from the pool and take it to the altar. This was done to commemorate the Lord providing Israel water while they were in the desert.

Exodus 17 records the Israelites in a waterless place and grumbling against the Lord. The Lord instructed Moses to strike a rock, and verse 6 records water gushing out of the rock as the Elders looked on. The Lord provided for Israel’s need in a big way, so a festival was started to remember the Lord’s provision.

This week-long festival ended in a dramatic way. The daily water drawing was performed seven times on the seventh day. It was here Jesus revealed where one’s desire for God could be met. John 7:37-38 says, “on the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds. ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me. Anyone who believes in me may come and drink. For the Scriptures declare rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”

Jesus stands and shouts to grab the people’s attention. He stands and shouts because his news is that pertinent. “Is your soul thirsting for God? Come to me! Are you longing to feel God’s presence? Come to me!” Jesus invites everyone to come to him and satisfy the desire to be with God. He invites everyone to come to him to find the peace and forgiveness for which they are longing. Jesus invites the thirsty, weary traveler to find rest in him. He can grant rivers of living water for our soul.

Do you allow your soul to drink from those waters? Is Jesus a dot on your calendar or the center of your day?

Please share this post.

light of the world

Night time in an unfamiliar terrain can be a scary place. With darkness all around, a traveler is not sure what lies ahead. The pitfalls of the land are unknown, so anxiety increases and nerves grow razor-thin. Have you ever been in this situation?

Israel was. As they were leaving Egypt, they found themselves in the unfamiliar territory of the desert. They were unsure what lie ahead, but the Lord gave them guidance. Exodus 13 records the Lord leading Israel by a pillar of fire. The light provided by this pillar gave Israel protection, it provided salvation, and it helped the people remember the Lord was with them.

Like Israel, life may place us in some unfamiliar territory, and the Lord will give us guidance in these moments. Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Just as Israel followed the pillar of fire, we can follow him.

“here is a promise of salvation much greater than Israel experienced. For it is deliverance not just from a national enemy, but from the forces of rebellion against God that lie behind every form of evil in the world. And, this deliverance is not just a rescue from darkness and a glimpse of the light, but an ongoing life apart from darkness through possession of the light of life,” according to the IVP New Testament Commentary. Jesus is our guiding light.

It is through Jesus we find protection, salvation, and the truth the Lord is with us. He is our light in unfamiliar places. He is our light guiding us through the darkness of this world. What areas of life do you need the Lord’s light to shine?

Please share this post.

come and see

One day as John the Baptist and his disciples were together, Jesus came by. John pointed out Jesus was the Messiah. The one who had been sent full of grace and truth, so Andrew and John started to follow him.

“Jesus looked around and saw them following, ‘What do you want,’ he asked them. They replied ‘Rabbi,’ which means Teacher, ‘where are you staying?’ ‘Come and see,’ he said…” (John 1:38-39).

When Andrew and John heard Jesus was there, they investigated, but they didn’t just want to talk with Jesus. They asked for his address. They wanted to spend time with him. They wanted to go and see what Jesus was about. John’s Gospel tells us Jesus welcomed them and allowed them to spend time with him.

Andrew and John were not the only people who wanted to go and see what Jesus was about. The shepherds left their flocks to go and see him. The Magi traveled a great distance to go and see him. The Gospels teach many followed Jesus, and he welcomed them.

Are you interested in seeing what Jesus is about? His invitation is the same to us as it was to Andrew and John. “Come and see,” Jesus invites. He welcomes us just as he welcomed them.

Please share this post.

a faithful response

She was a common girl. She wasn’t extravagantly rich or excessively poor. She just belonged to the group of common folks. Life seemed to be going well. She was engaged and her wedding was coming up. Mary had no idea of the direction her life was about to go.

Gabriel’s Visit

Luke records the angel Gabriel visiting Mary to reveal her part in God’s grand plan. Luke 2:28 says, “The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

After reassuring Mary his visit was to bring good news, Gabriel explained how she would be the mother of Jesus, and reminded Mary God can do anything. Mary was an ordinary girl, but she was given an extraordinary part to play in God’s plan. We know she inquired about the virgin birth, but we can only imagine what else went through Mary’s mind’ as she listened to the angel’s words.

She would have to explain this to Joseph. A pregnancy can’t be easily hidden, and people would speculate about her as they would not understand what the Lord was doing. This would have been a lot for Mary to process, and she may have not fully grasped it.

Mary’s Response

In spite of these thoughts, Mary listened intently to God’s plan, and note her response in Luke 2:38. “I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered, ‘may your word to me be fulfilled.”

Because of her faith, Mary was willing to offer herself as a servant. She realized fulfilling her purpose would have rough parts, but she trusted the Lord to be with her during those times. There were rough parts, and the Lord was with her during those times.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us Joseph had in mind to quietly divorce Mary when he found out about the pregnancy. It was only because the Lord stopped Joseph in a dream that he did not continue with his idea of divorce. Shortly after Jesus’ birth, Mary’s family had to flee to Egypt to save the young child. It was the prompting of the Lord which caused the family to go; it was the work of the Lord which kept Mary’s family safe. Being Jesus’ mom certainly had its rough parts, but the Lord stayed with Mary.

Our Purpose

Our purpose may not be in the spotlight like Mary’s, but our lives do have a purpose in God’s plan. Like Mary, we may encounter rough parts to fulfilling our purpose, but the Lord will help us. His grace has given us favor. The Lord is with us. Are we with him?

Ask God to help you discover your purpose and to give you the courage and strength to pursue it. Try responding like Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May his word be fulfilled.”

Please share this post.

baby brings forgiveness

Anna speaks of forgiveness.

It was an exciting day. Eight-day-old Jesus has been brought to the temple for his circumcision to fulfill the law, and much has occurred. Simeon and Anna have been waiting for this day, and Simeon has spoken about the comfort and peace Jesus brings. Now, it is Anna’s turn.

As Mary and Joseph are still pondering Simeon’s words, Anna comes along. Luke 2:38 says, “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” While Simeon sees comfort and peace in Jesus, Anna sees forgiveness.

The idea of redemption for Anna pointed to the captivity of the Old Testament. Especially to the Egyptian bondage and Israel’s redemption through the Passover. Ultimately, Passover points ahead to Christ redeeming Christians from the slavery of sin. When Anna saw Jesus she gave thanks to God, and spoke to anyone who would listen about his redemption. Here, at last, was the one who would save his people from their sins. Here, through Jesus, was forgiveness.

Perhaps 2020 has been the year of mistakes. You beat yourself up daily because past mistakes constantly fly up in your face. Jesus offers forgiveness and freedom from those mistakes. Forgiveness came on the first Christmas. “Today in the town of David,” the angel reported to the shepherds, “a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Take time today to allow and reflect on the forgiveness offered through Christ.

Please share this post.

baby brings comfort and peace

New parents learn of the impact their child will have on the world.

Just a week ago, these parents found rest in a stable as there was no room in the inn. Today, their son turned eight-days-old, so it was time for his circumcision. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to fulfill the law, and while there, Simeon came up and scooped the baby from Mary’s arms. He took the child in his arms and praised God.

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon grabs Jesus from Mary’s arms and begins praising God for good reason. From their perspective, things were not exactly going well for Israel. They hadn’t heard from God for about 400 years and were living under Roman rule. They had lost their political independence and were living under the rule of the capable, crafty, crazy, and cruel king Herod. Many were waiting and wondering if the Messiah would ever come.

Moved by the spirit that day, Simeon went to the temple to see the Messiah. Simeon understood this baby in his arms was the Comforter. The need to be comforted is a universal human need. We all struggle with emptiness, loneliness, insecurity, and desperation. It seems depression spikes this time of year, but here’s the comforter. This young baby in Simeon’s arms. Simeon sees the one who has come to make it alright. The one who has come to bring comfort to the world.

Simeon sees the one who has come to bring peace. Life is always in an uproar. Circumstances are always arising in an attempt to steal our peace, yet this baby brings peace. Paul asserts this peace transcends all understanding. Christ, Christmas, brings peace.

Can you relate to Simeon? Are you hurting and uneasy? 2020 has been filled with much hurt and great anxiety, but Christ can provide comfort and peace. Take a moment to find and reflect on the comfort and peace you have in Jesus Christ.

Please share this post.

waiting on christmas

A couple of years ago I was doing some Christmas shopping at Kohl’s. Items in hand, I headed to the front of the store to pay, but the checkout line started there, wove its way through the store, and stopped at the back of the store. I found a nice associate holding a sign which read, “Line Starts Here,” so I got in line. A few minutes later the line had moved, but it seemed to be very little. Some more time passed, and I was in the middle of the line. Line in front. Line behind, and the nice guy holding the sign was out of sight. All I could do was wait. Wait until it was my turn to pay.

While most of us do not like it, waiting is a part of life. We wait to pay. We wait at the doctor’s office. Elevate our stress and anxiety, and it seems like we wait even longer. We can’t get around the dreaded wait.

The Bible tells us Simeon and Anna waited a long time for the first Christmas. In chapter 2, Luke introduces us to these two faithful believers, and tells us they were eagerly anticipating Christ’s arrival. Simeon’s exact age is not revealed. He is only referred to as an elderly man, so we can assume he had been waiting for Jesus for many years. Anna is 84-years-old, and Luke says she has been coming to the temple daily for 60 years awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. That’s 60 years of watching, hoping, and waiting.

Simeon and Anna were masters at waiting. Doing the same thing daily for 60 years. There may have been moments of discouragement, but they kept waiting because of their faith.

I waited in the Kohl’s line until it led me to the front of the store where I discovered a beehive of activity. There were 4 cashiers and 4 associates putting items in bags. Other associates were running from place to place to replace damaged items and make sure shoppers had exactly what they wanted. One person was breaking the line into 4 parts to ensure a smooth transition to the checkout. Much activity was happening that I missed when I was standing in the back and middle of the store in line waiting my turn.

In the same way, Simeon and Anna waited. They had no idea of the Lord’s activity to prepare for Jesus’ birth. Enemy nations were being conquered. Long seasons of peace were being established. Roads were being constructed for easier travel and people were being prepared. All to fulfill Scripture. Mankind couldn’t see God at work in the moment, but looking back, history teaches us the Lord was hard at work in the days leading up to Christmas.

Simeon and Anna didn’t realize or even understand the Lord was hard at work. They only waited hopefully and faithfully. Could it be the same for us? Could the Lord be hard at work to bring about what we are waiting on? Could it be he just needs us to wait hopefully and faithfully a little longer? When the timing is right and everything is ready, our prayer will be answered, the needed change will succeed, and the other things for which we are waiting will happen.  

Simeon and Anna spent a lifetime waiting, and they were blessed to see Jesus as a baby. Their blessing was worth the wait. It will be worth the wait for us as well. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Please share this post.

How Does the Lord Respond to Doubt?

Jesus responds with grace and compassion.

Experiencing doubts in one’s faith journey can seem lonely. The one having doubts may feel he or she is the only one having questions. However, approximately 2/3 of Christians experience doubts at some point. And, this is not a new experience in the 21st Century. It has been occurring since the 1st Century; Jesus’ first followers had doubts.

The Bible records John the Baptist experiencing doubts. On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, many of his disciples had doubts, and Jesus responded with grace and compassion.

He responded the same way to Thomas, who can be classified as the most famous of doubters. John 20:24-29 tells us Thomas was not present the first time Jesus appears to the disciples, and when they report the news to him, Thomas just cannot wrap his mind around it.

Verse 25 says, “But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail scars in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Thomas is like most Christians. He experienced a season of doubt, and Jesus responded with grace and compassion.

John’s Gospel goes on in verse 26: “A week later the disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”

It is as if Jesus was in the room a week earlier when Thomas expressed his doubt, and Jesus responds compassionately and graciously.

The final statement Jesus makes to Thomas in this moment is, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:26). The IVP Commentary Series states another way to think of Jesus’ words is, “Stop becoming unbelieving and become believing again.” Our Christian life is a journey of faith and seasons of doubt come, but when they do, Jesus responds with compassion and grace.

If you are going through a season of doubt, you are not alone. Many Christians have asked questions and sought answers. Most respondents stated their faith was stronger after going through a season of doubt.

The Lord knows seasons of doubt come in life, and he responds with grace and compassion. Challenge your doubts by asking questions and seeking answers.

 

The Days After the Resurrection

Jesus gives a starting point for sharing hope.

The time from Jesus’ resurrection to his ascension was eventful for his disciples. He appeared to them numerous times, and they never knew when or where he would show up. They needed to be ready to learn from Jesus at any time.

John 21 records Jesus appearing to some of his disciples as they were fishing. It was the early morning hours, and the men had been fishing all night. They caught nothing though until Jesus guided them. While the disciples were about 100 yards from shore, Jesus appeared on the shore. He suggested throwing the net on the right side of the boat. They did, and it was filled with fish.

They came ashore, and Jesus was waiting with a hot breakfast. Jesus needed to have a conversation with the disciples concerning the future, but first, he wanted to make sure their needs were met. If they were struggling and hungry, they would not be focused on what Jesus had to say.

The Bible encourages Christians to share our hope, and I believe we find a starting point in this post-resurrection appearance.

We need to help a person meet his or her physical needs before we can have an open door to discuss spiritual matters.

If a person is struggling and hungry today, he or she is not concerned about tomorrow. A starting point for sharing hope is helping meet physical needs.

  • It may be helping the person look for work.
  • It may be helping the individual identify ways to advance his or her skills to improve financial stability.
  • It may be helping a person navigate resources to find help.
  • Mostly, it is investing in the person’s life to earn the right to share our hope.

People are more content to discuss tomorrow when today’s needs are met.

 

 

Neighbors First

Neighbors first mindset is modeled by Jesus.

Thursday of Passion Week has two events where we see Jesus placing others first amid much tension.

First, Jesus and his disciples are in the upper room partaking in the Passover meal. They are about to eat, but no one has washed feet. This was a dirty job reserved for the lowest servant in the household, but none of the disciples bothered to do it. Perhaps because they were too busy arguing about being the greatest. It could have been the disciples were so involved in themselves they forgot about washing feet. Jesus, on the other hand, did not.

He wrapped a towel around his waist and washed his disciple’s feet. This would have been upside down logic in the disciples’ minds. They should have been the ones washing Jesus’ feet. Nevertheless, Jesus serves them. He places their needs above his own.

Jesus would have had a lot on his mind in the upper room. He knew what was getting ready to take place. He knew of his betrayal, his arrest, and his crucifixion, yet he served his disciples. Though carrying a heavy load, himself, Jesus was concerned about the needs of his disciples. Jesus had a neighbors first mindset.

Second, Jesus was praying in the garden. He requested some of his disciples keep watch, but they kept falling asleep. In his anguish, Jesus could have scolded the disciples, but he didn’t. He told them to pray for themselves. Jesus had a neighbors first mindset.

We know this was an excruciating time for Jesus. The Bible records Jesus sweating drops of blood as he was agonizing over the cross; however, his mindset remained neighbors first.

You and I find a challenge in these events. We should strive to have a neighbors first mindset. This Easter season may be different than any other in our lifetime. Many of us our carrying heavy loads as we navigate through an uncommon time. This is more reason to have a neighbors first mindset.

By having a neighbors first mindset, you and I can help one another get through this historical time. We can check on one another, pick up supplies for one another, and encourage one another. All this can be done while maintaining social distance, and a neighbors first mindset does make a difference.

Just ask Amy McDonald. Amy was headed to the store a few days ago, and she stopped to check on an elderly neighbor. The neighbor needed groceries, so Amy obtained the list. She stopped at two stores and returned with the requested items, but something seemed wrong.

Amy spent some time with her neighbor, and it turns out the lady was having a heart attack. She was having what is known as the “Widow Maker.” Amy was able to call EMS and the neighbor’s daughter. A life was saved because Amy had a neighbors first mindset.

Here’s more folks with a neighbors first mindset.

We find in the events of Passion Week’s Thursday a challenge to adopt a neighbors first mindset. This mindset makes a difference. Amy’s neighbors first mindset saved a life. What will your neighbors first mindset do today?

Please share this post with your friends.