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Latest Blog Posts in June 2011

Wingtips: Thursday

Posted on Thu, Jun 09, 2011 under Shoes

John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him

In the midst of his conversation with Jesus, Nicodemus is the recipient of the most famous quote of the entire Bible.  He had set up a meeting with Jesus to investigate for himself exactly what Jesus was teaching, to hear it and test it for himself.  Jesus had just finished telling Nicodemus about a spiritual rebirth that we must undergo, and now Jesus really lays it all out in John 3:16.

I am by no means a Bible scholar, and I cannot even begin to attempt unpacking the deep theology of John 3:16.  But what did Jesus' words mean to Nicodemus in the moment when the famous phrase was uttered?  What would it have meant for Jesus to say this directly to us?

Maybe it simply means we are chosen.  God had a plan for how he was going to redeem his people from the very beginning.  Jesus didn't have to be sacrificed, he did it out of love.  He chose to follow God’s will and in doing so, he redeemed his chosen people.  He redeemed Jew and Gentile alike.

Do you think Nicodemus had an “aha” moment?  Do you think he got it right there on the spot?  He had spent years studying the scriptures, enforcing God’s written law, and living a comfortable life as a Pharisee.  After all the legalism, can it really boil to one simple word?  Can it all be united by love?

John doesn’t tell us how Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus ends, but I’m sure Nicodemus left exhilarated, if not a little confused.  The life he had spent years chasing was all about to be made meaningless by the love of Jesus.  There are historical accounts indicating that Nicodemus was baptized, so we know that he eventually “got it.”  Once he had some time to digest what Jesus was saying, Nicodemus knew it was the truth.

All of us who follow Christ can remember our own “aha” moment – that single instance where we finally realized our desperate need for Jesus.  The body of Christ is made up of people of with different clothing styles, different bank accounts, and positions on the social ladder.  But we are all united by the love of Christ and a desire to know him more deeply.

  • Take some time to think about your own “aha” moment.  There is value in reliving that moment and thanking God for choosing you.
  • What does John 3:16 mean to you personally?  How does its meaning impact your life?

Wingtips: Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Jun 08, 2011 under Shoes

John 3: 3-4

After days, maybe even months of wondering, Nicodemus was finally able to bring himself to meet with Jesus.  Despite being a wealthy, educated, powerful man, Nicodemus knew Jesus possessed something he didn't, and he had to find out for himself what that was.  So he arranged a secret, after dark meeting to find out.  Who knows how long Nicodemus spent rehearsing and preparing himself for this meeting.  He had played it out in his mind, he chose his words carefully.  He greeted Jesus respectfully, humbly.  And how does Jesus respond?

"Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God."  Imagine what went through the mind of Nicodemus: "What am I supposed to do with that?  Born again?  That doesn't even make sense."   

As a Bible scholar and a Jewish legalist, Nicodemus was surely a very rigid and practical man.  He lived in a legalistic, black and white world.  Jesus is talking about something that would have seemed abstract and was difficult for Nicodemus to wrap his mind around.  Being born again isn't practical.  It can’t literally happen.  The response Nicodemus gave is almost comical, and clearly indicates he was bewildered - "You want me to crawl back into my mother's womb and come back out?"

I have always wondered what Jesus truthfully thought of Nicodemus' response.  The scriptures don't say it, but I wonder if he laughed.  Maybe he was annoyed.  Did he turn to his disciples and say “What is with this guy?”  I can't help but naturally think Jesus might feel the same way about me at times.

We all want to live in a world where the answers are clear.  Where we always know who we are, what we are doing, what is going to happen, and what is expected of us.  Jesus wants the exact opposite.  He wants us to live by faith - to trust him, to let him worry about what is going to happen, let him worry about providing for us. 

Living by faith, not law, is not straight forward.  It is not always easy, but once we experience the spiritual rebirth that Jesus tells Nicodemus about, we continually learn how to trust Jesus.  This doesn't always happen overnight.  Just as Nicodemus had questions, so do I.  But as time goes on in my journey of faith, I believe that Jesus changes my heart and teaches me to trust him.  He is a strong rock, and he has never let me down.

  • What should we do when we don’t understand what the Lord is telling us?  How should we respond when we are lost or confused?
  • How do we know when we truly trust Jesus?

Wingtips: Tuesday

Posted on Mon, Jun 06, 2011 under Shoes

John 3:2

He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.

In yesterday’s devotion we laid out who Nicodemus was and what his place in Jewish society was as Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin.  We know what Jesus thought of the Pharisees based on his numerous encounters with them in the Gospels, and we certainly recall that the Pharisees ultimately had Jesus arrested and put to death.  Now today we see that one of the Pharisees has made a point of meeting face-to-face with Jesus. 

John tells us this meeting occurred during the evening, after dark.  Clearly Nicodemus did not want to be seen associating with Jesus.  He held an important position in society, and he certainly could not jeopardize it by associating with the enemy.  But Nicodemus could not resist – he had heard Jesus teach and had seen him perform miracles.  He was curious and knew something important was going on, but up until now had watched all of it from a distance. 

Imagine how long Nicodemus had been playing this out in his mind.  He was probably nervous, so he went in with a script he had rehearsed a thousand times.  How do you address somebody who the people believed was the long-awaited messiah, especially given that he can see right through your words and straight into your heart?  Nicodemus chose his words carefully, addressing Jesus as “rabbi”, a term of endearment at the time reserved for respected teachers in Israel’s society.  He even goes as far as to say that “God is with you,” something the Pharisees could never bring themselves to admit.

Nicodemus was a powerful man and he could have commanded that Jesus come to him for a meeting.  Instead, he chose to approach Jesus at night rather than make a scene in front of his Pharisee counterparts.  Simply by virtue of the time of day and the words he chose, Nicodemus shows us that he was attempting to be humble and respectful.  The kindness and compassion of Jesus had drawn him in.

I think we can all relate to Nicodemus' story.  For people with wealth or power, it becomes very easy to think we don't need Jesus in our lives.  If we can make it through life on our own, if we are living comfortably the way things are, why would we need the help of a Savior?  Sure we all have problems, but sometimes we believe we can manage them on our own.  Like many of us, Nicodemus had reached a point in his life where he couldn't do it anymore.  It wasn't about comfort or political power.  He realized that regardless of those things, he needed to reach out for Jesus and experience the forgiveness, love, and compassion first hand.

  • Can you relate to Nicodemus in this situation? 
  • Have you reached a point where you realized you could not manage without Jesus?  Have you humbly, respectfully approached Jesus to ask for help?
  • What is holding you back from drawing near to Jesus?  A job? Social status?

Wingtips: Monday

Posted on Mon, Jun 06, 2011 under Shoes

John 3:1

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.

The importance of Jesus’ message in John chapter three cannot be understated, as it contains the most frequently quoted scripture of the entire Bible.  But what if we examine this teaching from the perspective of the one who was asking Jesus the questions?  What can we gain by examining Jesus’ conversation through the vantage point of Nicodemus?

During the time of Jesus the Pharisees were a group of religious leaders who were known for being Bible scholars who strictly followed Jewish customs.   They were highly educated individuals held up as models for common people to follow.   Jesus was at odds with the Pharisees during the time of his ministry and frequently rebuked them. 

John notes that Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and thus without knowing anything of Nicodemus’ character or personality, we immediately have a picture of who Nicodemus was by virtue of who he associated with.  Nicodemus was also known to be a member of the Sanhedrin, meaning he entered into the political realm by serving as a judge on the ruling council of the Jewish people.  He was no doubt a very powerful and well respected man in his time.  He would not have associated with common people unless it was through his position as a religious leader.  If a common person had passed him on the street, they would likely have been nervous knowing they were in his presence.

Try to imagine who Nicodemus would be during our modern times.  He would probably wear wingtip shoes and an Armani suit with slicked back hair.  Just seeing him in public or on television we would know he was a powerful, rich man.  We might be star struck if we saw him and ask for his autograph or ask to take a photo with him.  This certainly isn’t the type of man I would imagine striking up a conversation with Jesus. 

  • Does Nicodemus being a Pharisee define who he was as a person?  Does it define his attitude?
  • What does your external appearance say about you? What do the clothes or shoes that you wear say about you?
  • What does your job or position in society say about you?

Submit: Friday

Posted on Fri, Jun 03, 2011 under Christian (n) Church (n)

Matthew 23:37

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing."

Isaiah 1:18-20

"Come now, let us settle the matter,"
says the Lord.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;

but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword."
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 30:15

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.

In today’s Scripture readings, take notice of the word “willing” and of the phrase “but you would have none of it.” One of the biggest obstacles to listening to God and obeying Him is unwillingness of spirit and a refusal to submit our own ways, knowledge, and control to God’s. Just as we began the week by solidifying the “givens” and “tools” needed to listen and obey, I thought we should end the week by remembering the necessity of being willing and [don’t shudder] submissive.

We must be willing to listen, and then we must be willing to obey. We must be willing to accept God’s authority in our lives over our own knowledge and our own ideas of how things should go. This is never more difficult then when circumstances in our lives are going the exact opposite of the way we want them to go!

God gives us promises in His word both of what to expect here on earth and what to expect in the future.  What we do with His words depends on whether we have an unwilling or willing spirit. In our culture we will describe people (grown or small) as strong-willed when they are hardheaded, stubborn, persistent, and at times, down right difficult. It sounds nicer to say strong-willed I suppose. The truth is, most adult Christians I know are strong-willed in how they related to God – even the most mild mannered of them! Why? Because most of us still want to hold on to some control of some part of our lives rather than fully submit all areas of our lives to God. We hold back love or compassion from those who are hard to love, we hold back trust from God because we’ve never been able to trust anyone, we hold back certain areas of our lives like our sexual purity or finances because they are “personal”. Part of being a Christ-follower is being submissive to the authority and therefore the voice of God. We must have a willing spirit to accept the word God offers and a submissive spirit that is willing to obey. Otherwise, the balance of power is skewed and peaceful relationship and interaction with God becomes much more difficult and tumultuous not at His doing, but because of our strong wills – because at times “[we will] have none of it.”

  • Where do you find unwillingness in you to obey or in what areas do you find an unwillingness to surrender them to God?
  • Does the word submission imply weakness to you? Ask God to help you redefine submission according to His purpose.
  • What has God said that you need to obey this week?

Pray the following passage into your life to end this week:

From Ephesians 3:14-19

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Submit: Thursday

Posted on Thu, Jun 02, 2011 under Christian (n) Church (n)

John 10:1-9

"Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.t They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

John 10:14-15

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Comparison to a flock of sheep seems a stretch for us in this present age. We don’t have a gigantic knowledge base [at least the majority of us] about shepherding or tending a flock. I am currently doing a study called “Discerning the Voice of God” by Priscilla Shirar and she did some research for her study by talking with a modern day shepherd familiar with customs of shepherding present in Jesus’ time. The shepherd told her that in Jesus’ day different shepherds would often put their sheep in the same gate for safekeeping in the night. When a shepherd came, he would enter the gate and do a specific call that only his sheep recognized. At that point, only his sheep would gather and follow him out of the pen.  Why? Because they knew their shepherd’s voice and his way of calling them. Because of this intimate knowing of the shepherd’s voice they wouldn’t follow anyone else.

Take a moment and think about the people you know and how you know their voices. I’ve often thought about this parable in terms of being in a crowded room with my back to the door. I would know my husband arrived before I ever laid eyes on him as soon as he said “Hey” to someone as he came in. Why? I know his voice. One step further; if he called for me and asked me to follow him, I would go even if I did not know what exactly we were doing or where we were going. I trust him, I know him and so I would follow him. On the contrary if a stranger called for me and asked me to follow him, I would not go. I would not trust him because I would not know him so I would not follow him. In the same way as we grow in our relationship with God we grow to trust Him as we know Him and so, we should follow Him [a.k.a. obey Him].

Do you interact with God enough that you know Him? Have you experienced His ways so that you trust Him?

Would you know His voice if He called for you and would you follow Him even if you did not know where you are going? Consider Abraham and God’s call to him in Genesis 12:1 “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’ ” God goes on to make some promises to Abram about his future while still not revealing exactly where they were headed. By verse 4, Abram has a simple response. It says, “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him.”

  • Fill in the blanks with your name and your circumstances: The Lord said to (name), “(circumstance or command).” So(name) (your response).

Submit: Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Jun 01, 2011 under Christian (n) Church (n)

John 14:22-24

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"

Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

1 John 2:4-6

Whoever says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

A connection exists between love and obedience. Jesus very clearly states that anyone who loves Him will obey His teaching. Jesus did not say “might obey, or should obey, or could obey.” He confidently implied that a natural consequence of loving Jesus is obeying Him.

Have you noticed how often passages about listening and obeying also reference the roles of the triune God? In the John 14 passage, for example, we see Jesus referring to the Father joining Him to make their home with the person who obeys. He also references that He is not speaking His own words, but the words that belong to the Father who sent Him. Then in verse 25-26, we see Jesus set up the Holy Spirit again by saying, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father [there He is again] will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Jesus is passing the teaching baton to the Spirit and stating that once He leaves, the Father will yet again send just what His people need in the Spirit. We see them all working together and we see them listening to each other and complying with the Father. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are perfect models of how we should love God the Father by listening to Him and obeying His teachings.

As I have become a parent, God has instructed me on how to parent my children by asking me through His word and in my heart, “How do I parent you?” It changes how and why I discipline when I remember how and why God disciplines me. It changes how I discuss wrong choices when I remember how God deals with my wrong choices and addresses them in Scripture. You get the idea. The love and obedience package also makes an appearance in my home as I often tell my children that one way they can show love to mommy and daddy is by obeying us, by doing what we ask right when we ask.  When viewed as a way of loving us, obedience becomes less about the rules and more about the relationship. They don’t understand this fully, yet, but we can as we interact with God.

God is more trustworthy than any parent and we can obey Him as an act of love more to maintain our relationship with Him than to simply appease or satisfy Him. Obedience keeps things good between God and us and keeps our feet from stumbling down paths they were never meant to travel. Embracing the dynamic duo of love and obedience is a win, win. 

  • What type of relationship do you truly desire to have with God?
  • Are there past hurts from a parent/guardian that keep you from trusting God and therefore from obeying Him?
  • How can you love God more deeply today by taking a step of obedience?

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