Tag Archives: John

Visited & Redeemed

Jesus’ birth is a miracle, and leading up to his coming, the Lord performed another miracle through Zachariah and Elizabeth. Luke’s Gospel tells us they were older, so no one expected them to have a child. The Lord had another plan though. As the Lord promised to Zachariah in the temple, Elizabeth gave birth to a son. As everyone was celebrating the birth, Zachariah helps us see his son, John, was going to be a forerunner for someone awesome!

Zachariah says in Luke 1:68-70, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.” Many were waiting, and now it was time for the Lord’s visit and redemption.

Has Visited

The Bible teaches Jesus is the one who has come from God full of mercy and truth. John 1:14-17 says, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness, and we have seen his glory – the glory of the Father’s One and Only son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, ‘This is the one I was talking about when I said someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am. For he existed long before me.’ From his abundance we have received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ!”

Charles Stanley writes, “Jesus is far more than just a great teacher or a mighty prophet. In fact, he is God with us. Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature because he is God himself. Whatever Jesus does, he does with grace. Whatever he says, he says in truth. If you want to understand what God is like, look to Jesus.”

John 1:18 teaches, “No one has ever seen God, but the unique one who is himself God is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” He has revealed God’s grace and truth, and he has come to be with us. He has come to redeem us.

Has Redeemed

Zachariah said the Lord sent a mighty Savior. Another way to say it is the Lord has risen a horn of salvation for us. Jesus has come with all power and might to be on our side. If God is for us, who can be against us? No one! The Lord is more powerful than anyone or anything. He has come to save us. The work is already done, and the gift of redemption is under God’s Christmas tree. We just have to receive it.

As you open all your gifts this year, consider opening the gift of God’s grace.

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what? that’s it!

Here a snake, there a snake, everywhere a snake, snake. This doesn’t sound like anywhere I would want to be, but there was a group of people who found themselves in such a place.

This group of travelers was in the desert and growing a little cranky. One thing leads to another and Israel finds themselves surrounded by poisonous snakes, so they asked Moses to pray.

“Then the Lord told him, ‘Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it.’ So, Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed,” according to Numbers 21:8-9.

God’s answer for the people is easy. “Simply look at the snake.” In other words, “trust me.” That’s it. If an Israelite was bitten by a snake, he or she just needed to trust God by looking at the bronze snake. Perhaps they expected a more difficult process. Find a specific plant oil or hold the infected area in the sand for 15 minutes, but God’s answer was simple. The simplicity may have caused some people trouble.

It did Nicodemus, and Jesus said to him, “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. 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 3:14-17). Jesus requested trust from Nicodemus. Follow his leading to eternal life, and you will be saved just like the Israelites who looked at the bronze snake.

Jesus requests the same trust from us. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he says in John 14:1. “You trust in God; trust also in me.” The simplicity of trusting him confuses us at times. We feel there should be something more, but Jesus reminds us following him will lead to eternal life. We forget all the places we see the Lord at work, so our trust may begin to slip a little. The question of is there something more I need to do slides into our thoughts.

But Jesus assures us, trusting him is the action required. By the way, we trust simple actions to do complex work all the time. We trust pushing an elevator button will raise or lower us to the desired floor without seeing the mechanical movements of the elevator. We turn a door knob to open the door without witnessing the latch being pulled back in the door. We trust Google and Alexa to turn on our lights without seeing the process go through its steps. Jesus asks for our trust. Do we trust him?

 Make a list of the ways the Lord is working in your life for reference if your trust begins to slip a little. Where have you seen the Lord at work? How has God shown himself trustworthy to you in the past?

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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.

 

 

3 Suggestions for Coping with Overwhelming Circumstances

74% of respondents reported being overwhelmed and unable to cope. Here are 3 suggestions.

The wind whipped sea tossed the boat as the fierce winds swirled around them. The sky was completely blackened by the thick storm clouds, and the fishermen were overwhelmed by the storm. What should have been a quick and smooth trip across the sea was taking all night and the water was rough. The fishermen were straining at the ores trying to get through the storm, and as each minute passed, the feeling of being overwhelmed increased.

Can you relate? Maybe not to being in a boat amid a storm, but to feeling overwhelmed by circumstances surrounding you. According to a 2018 mental health survey, 74% of respondents reported being so overwhelmed by stress they were unable to cope. So, you are not alone.

According to the study, there were many factors contributing to individuals feeling overwhelmed. Factors included a person’s own, or loved ones, long-term health condition, debt, feeling like messages required an instant response, and younger adults reported being overwhelmed by the pressure to succeed. Comparing oneself to others and low self-esteem were also mentioned as factors.

It may be one of these factors or another causing you to feel overwhelmed, so here are 3 suggestions to keep in mind when feeling overwhelmed.

1. We should focus on the Lord.

Jesus’ disciples can relate to feeling overwhelmed. Matthew 14 records the disciples being in a fierce storm. They had been trying to cross the sea all night, but the boat was buffeted by the waves. Walking on the water, Jesus comes to them, and gives Peter a chance to show us what to do and what not to do in overwhelming circumstances.

Matthew 14:28-30 tells us, “Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink cried out, ‘Lord, save me!”

Peter was in an overwhelming storm, yet he walked on water if he focused on Jesus. It is when he shifted his gaze from Jesus to the waves he began to sink. Focusing on the Lord equals walking on the water; focusing on the waves equals sinking.

When you and I are in overwhelming circumstances, we should focus on the Lord. When we feel we don’t measure up to others, we should remember the Lord loves us, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. When we feel the pressure to succeed, we should remember what success looks like in the Lord’s eyes. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we should focus on the Lord.

It is when you and I lose focus on the Lord we are overwhelmed by circumstances the Lord can overtake.

2. The Lord will grab hold of us.

Peter is sinking, and cries out, “Lord, save me!” The Lord, in turn, grabs hold of Peter.

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him…,” says Matthew 14:32.

Jesus grabbed hold of Peter to help him get back in the boat. Jesus will grab hold and help us in overwhelming circumstances.

He grabs hold of us when we believe all options are exhausted and we have no where to turn. He will take our hand and guide us in life’s storms. He grabs us when financial security is gone, physical health is fading, and we are forced into the storm of change.

Who better than Jesus to grab hold of us? In this storm, which is overpowering the disciples, Jesus is taking a walk on the water. In this storm, which is consuming the disciple’s strength, Jesus is about to pass them.

Mark 6:48 says, “Shortly before dawn he went out to them walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them….”

Circumstances we find overwhelming the Lord finds underwhelming. Situations overpowering us don’t even cause the Lord to flinch. When we are consumed by the storm, the Lord is taking a walk. The Lord will grab hold of you and I in overwhelming circumstances.

3. The storm doesn’t last forever.

Peter and his companions were only in the storm for one night. It did not last forever; however, in the middle of the storm, they probably thought it would never end. The disciples would have been exhausted. Hours spent straining at the ores, trying to keep the boat going in the right direction. The elements were physically and mentally demanding, so I’m sure they were tired.

The circumstances which overwhelm you and me will not last forever; however, when they are occurring, it seems like they will never end. We are exhausted. The doctor doesn’t know what to try next. We rearrange our rearrangement of the budget, but we still do not have enough money to pay the bills. We know the situation won’t last forever, but when will it end?

Matthew says the storm ended when Jesus and Peter returned to the boat, and John offers a deeper perspective.

John 6:21 says, “Then they were willing to take him into the boat and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”

John says the boat reached the shore immediately. For Peter, the darkest, most frightening part of the storm was the last part of the storm. He was closer to shore than he realized. Perhaps the same is true for us.

We may be closer to the end of an overwhelming circumstance than we realize. We may be nearing the end. If nothing else, you and I can honestly say we are one day closer to the end. We are one day closer to the end than we were yesterday.

Meanwhile, the overpowering situation is still swirling around us, and Jesus makes the same statement to us he made to the disciples.

Jesus says, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid,” in Matthew 14:27.

Focus on the Lord. Allow him to grab hold of you and walk with you through the overwhelming season of life. This is not the first time he’s faced overwhelming odds.

This is not the first time the Lord has faced overwhelming odds.

The same day Jesus walked on the water he was faced with the overwhelming challenge of feeding 15,000 to 20,000 people with two fish and a few loaves of bread. The disciples had no idea how to feed that many people with so few supplies, but Jesus did. The Gospel writers tell us there was plenty to eat. Jesus beat overwhelming odds.

Some time after walking on water Jesus was placed in a tomb. The disciples were overwhelmed with sorrow thinking this was the end. But Jesus came out of the tomb leaving it empty. Jesus was not overpowered by death. He knew how to beat it.

Your life may be overwhelming right now. You may be facing circumstances in which you have no idea what to do. The Lord does. “Take courage,” Jesus says, “I am here.”

Acting

Ask the Lord to help you go through the overwhelming circumstances of life.

What suggestions do you have for someone feeling overwhelmed? Please share in the comments below.

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A Hopeful Promise

Feeling trapped in a hopeless situation? Please know there is always hope in this promise the Lord makes us.

The Promise

John 14:2-3 says, “My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you. And, if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

“I’m coming back for you,” Jesus promises. In a world filled with broken hearts and unkept promises, these words of Jesus give us a promise in which we can fully trust. The promise is coming from a trustworthy source.

Jesus and his disciples are having an intense conversation. Jesus is preparing the disciples for events which will soon take place. The news is unsettling. It is perplexing and frightening to the disciples, so Jesus requests their trust and assures them of his return. Jesus’ words were a familiar comfort to the disciples.

A Familiar Promise

Jesus made his promise of returning in an everyday way to his disciples. An engagement would have immediately come to mind.

Weddings were done differently in the first century as the marriage was arranged. When it was decided a bride and groom would be married, the groom would make a promise to his bride.

He would say something like, “In my father’s house are many rooms, and I’m going to prepare a place for you. When I have finished preparing the place, I will come back to get you. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Newly married couples would live in the groom’s father’s house. If there were several generations living there, it could be a large structure. Upon their engagement, the groom would return to his father’s house to prepare the necessary addition to the home. The only hitch was he did not know when the addition would be completed. His promise did not include date and time. He just promised he would return to get the bride.

While she was anticipating her groom’s return, the bride learned how to have a successful household from her mother, and at night, she would place a lamp in her window so the groom could find her if he returned. The couple would have a beautiful wedding ceremony when the groom returned.

A Hopeful Promise

Think again of Jesus’ words. “My Father’s house has many rooms….” Jesus is giving us the promise of a groom. He has gone to prepare a place for us.

Like a first century bride, our job is to prepare for his return, and just like the bride, we don’t know a date or time.

Jesus is off preparing a place for us, and he has promised us he will return. He has promised you and I he will return, and if we trust him, we can find much hope in this promise.

If you are feeling hopeless, cling to this promise. For there is always hope in Christ.

Acting

How do you find hope in this promise? Share in the comments below.

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