December 5 – Jesus is God: Saying #3

Who is the good leader?  The good leader is the one who is working for the good of those who are following their lead.  

Who is the bad leader?  The bad leader is one who is working only for their own personal benefit without regard for the welfare of those they are leading.

This principle is true in parenting, business, church life, and politics.  When leaders truly care for and develop those they are leading for their joy and welfare, they are leading well.  All too often, though, we see leaders who are only in it for themselves … their accolades, ego, compensation, agenda, or perks.

I think part of the reason people are so reluctant to follow leadership today is because we have seen so many leaders who are self-serving.  But good leadership?  Well, who wouldn’t want to follow a leader that is willing to sacrifice for our benefit?

Let me ask you a question … Is Jesus a leader?  Of course He is!  He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  He is the Leader of leaders.  But let me ask you another question.  Is He a good leader?

In John 10:14 Jesus makes the following assertion:  “I am the good shepherd.”  What does He mean when He says this?  He is saying that He is the perfect example of the Good Leader.  So at least Jesus thinks He is a good leader … in fact He believes He is THE BEST leader!

But what makes Jesus so certain that He is the good shepherd/leader?  He continues and provides us the reason why, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down  His life for the sheep.”  What makes Jesus such an amazing leader is that He is willing to lay down His own life for us.

This idea is further elaborated on in Philippians 2:5-11.  Jesus (as God, the ultimate Leader) left the comfort of Heaven to come to this earth to ultimately lay down His life on the cross, paying the penalty our transgressions deserved, so that we might be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God.  He is the good leader because He lay down His life for us.

Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was the action of the best leader.  Coming to educate us on who God is by showing us what God is like.  And His birth gave Him a human life that He would one day lay down as a sacrifice for us.  Jesus, the good shepherd, is a leader we can follow in faith and obedience as He is seeking our ultimate good.

Jesus as the good shepherd also shows the pattern and style of leadership He longs for in His followers.  Why would we want to be a bad leader/parent/boss?  Good leaders follow the example of Christ and lay down their lives for those they lead.

So, this Christmas, remember that Jesus (whose birth we remember) is a good leader, unlike so many other “leaders” in our lives.  Therefore, let’s follow Him together to the glory of God.

The statement “I am the good shepherd” is the third revelatory statement John mentions arguing that Jesus is God.

 

This devo is a part of the 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us.”  You can find the entire Christmas Devotional here.

God with us (part 2) Sermon Questions, Audio & Video

On Sunday, December 4, 2022 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on John 1:1-5, 9-13.  This message was part 2 in the “God with us” sermon series.  Below you will see questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.  Additionally, you will find the audio and video for the message to listen to/watch, download or share.

 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us;”   the entire Christmas Devotional here.

 

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read John 1:1-5; 9-13
  3. When you tell your “story” where do you start?  What influences when you start telling your story?
  4. In John 1:1-5, there are a number of things mentioned that point to Jesus being God.  What stands out to you most about “where” John begins the biography of Jesus, the Son of God?
  5. Read this quote from Bruce Milne: “If Jesus Christ shares the nature of God, we are called to worship Him without cessation, obey Him without hesitation, love Him without reservation and serve Him without interruption.”   Where are you convicted by this quote?  What are some ways you can change the way you approach Jesus this Christmas season in light of who He is?
  6. Have you received Jesus as your God and Savior?  If so, when?  If not, what is preventing you from receiving and believing in Him today?  
  7. What is one particular application you took away from this passage/message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

 

To listen offline, click the link:

God With Us #2 12.4.22

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the service, use YouTube online:

 

December 4 – Jesus is God: Sign #6

When I think of how God worked in my own life to draw me into a relationship with Him, I think of golf balls . . . rocks . . . and car washes.  I am sure you think of the same things.

When I was sixteen years old and pulling away (physically and emotionally) from all things “church,” the new youth pastor at East Cross United Methodist Church began to take a special interest in me.  He pursued me on my terms and in the places where I liked to hang out.  Thus, our very first spiritual conversations were on the golf course.  It was somewhere near the fourth tee at Adams Municipal Golf Course that we began talking about forgiveness, and somewhere near the 18th green where I decided to start going back to youth group to hang out with my new friend, Dwight.  Based on my experience, I am sure the golf course is where God got a hold of you as well.

On Easter Sunday, 1990, in the Fellowship Hall of East Cross, Dwight shared the Gospel with us in a unique way.  He had each person walk through ten stations where a question was asked concerning each of the Ten Commandments.  If you could answer yes to the question (thus indicating guilt), you were supposed to pick up a rock.  By the time I ended my progression through these stations, I had a bag full of rocks—and a sudden realization that I was in need of a Savior.  As Dwight spoke of the forgiveness found in Christ, I laid my “rocks” at the foot of the cross and began a relationship with the Living God.  Based on my experience, I am sure that a bag of rocks is how God showed you your need for a Savior too.

Soon after coming to Christ, Dwight asked me if I wanted to lead the planning of a fund raising car wash to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  I reluctantly agreed to do so.  This was the first time I had ever taken any leadership responsibility as a Christian.  Through this process, I began to realize some of my gifts and my desire to serve Christ with my life.  This small spark that began at the car wash was fanned into flame over the next couple of years until I felt God’s full call on my life into vocational pastoral ministry.  Based on my experience, I am sure that God used a car wash to launch you into a lifetime of serving Him as well.

Golf balls, rocks, and car washes.  These are the things that God used in my life.  No one can deny that.  It is my experience.  However, is it proper for me to imply or expect that because God used these things in my life, He will do the same in yours?  As we search for an answer to that question, let’s look at John 9:6-11 where Jesus came across a man who had been blind since birth, and He decided to show mercy on him.  The story reads, “Having said this, He (Jesus) spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  ‘Go,’ He told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means Sent).  So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.  His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?’  Some claimed that he was.  Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’  But he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’  ‘How then were your eyes opened?’ they demanded.  He replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes.  He told me to go to Siloam and wash.  So I went and washed and then I could see.’”

In that story, Jesus used spit to restore the man’s eyesight.  Jesus worked in this man’s life using a very common thing coupled with some very common instructions.  As the healed man reflected on the experience of what had just happened to him, he could easily recall the simple steps and commands that led to his healing.  As we read this story, we might be tempted to think that healing blindness is a product of WWJD (what would Jesus do?).  If we simply follow the formula that Jesus did, maybe we could get the same result.  However, there is a serious problem with thinking that way:  Jesus did not heal the same way twice.  

When Jesus healed the royal official’s sick son (John 4:43-54), He did not even go see the boy.  He simply spoke a word and the boy was healed.  When Jesus healed the woman who was hemorrhaging for many years, He allowed her to simply touch the edge of His coat, and her bleeding immediately stopped (Luke 8:40-48).  Even when Jesus healed other people of their blindness, sometimes He would just touch their eyes with His bare hands (Matthew 9:27-31) or He would just have a conversation with someone that led to his healing (Mark 10:46-51).  All these varied stories and encounters should remind all of us that the only consistent thing as it pertains to the “healing method” that is demonstrated in each story is the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus would work through many simple things to bring about healing.  Words, clothing, spit … all these things Jesus used to bring about healing, but what He used with one person, He often did not use with the next.  The one constant, however, was His presence enacting the miracle upon the person in need.

This is very significant as we consider how God has worked in our lives.  All of us who have experienced God’s love and forgiveness have at least three things that He used in our lives to draw us closer to Him. For me it was golf balls, rocks, and car washes.  For you, it might be Young Life Camp, scrapbooking, and cokes at Sonic.  These are all simple things that God can use in our lives— the saliva and dirt of our contemporary landscape.  However, before we begin to think that our salvation came through rocks, cokes, or saliva, we need to remember that whatever the methods, it is Christ alone who brings us grace.  This should free us up from demanding or expecting that everyone will be impacted just as we were (contrary to my silly implications earlier in this story).  God is a personal God who reaches out to us in many ways.  Remember that the next time your friend does not want to go to the same camp you went to or someone else thinks your “rocks” illustration is cheesy.  The same God who used saliva in one place and the edge of His garment in another can just as easily personalize the way He reaches you and me.

The healing of the blind man was the sixth miraculous sign mentioned by John arguing that Jesus was God.

This devo is a part of the 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us.”  You can find the entire Christmas Devotional here.

December 3 – Jesus is God: Saying #2

When I was a kid, I was terribly afraid of the dark.  Each night, I would hate going to bed because I did not want to be alone in the dark.  As a result, my parents tried several compromises.  For a while, I slept in my sister’s room … being with someone helped ease the fear.  When I wore out my welcome in Debbie’s room, my parents went to “Plan B” which was leaving my lamp on when I went to bed.  After I fell asleep, my Dad would come in (on his way to bed) and turn off my lamp.  At the time, I was very appreciative of these concessions.  Companionship and light allowed me to sleep easy even if I could not see what was causing the shadow from my closet or the monsters that I was certain were hiding under my bed.

What is it about the dark that makes things so scary?  Being afraid of the dark is not just something that small children face.  As adults, every scary movie we have ever seen is set at night.  I have heard that elderly people in nursing homes often become afraid of the dark all over again.  So, what is it about the dark that makes our hearts race faster?

I believe the reason we are afraid of the dark is because in the darkness, all of our world becomes unclear, uncertain, or unknown.  In the light, we can tell that the mysterious figure in the corner of the room is a teddy bear, not a bad guy, but in the dark, we cannot be certain.  In the light, the moving shadows on our floor are branches swaying in the wind, but in the dark, everything just looks more ominous.

Because of our natural fear of the dark, Jesus’ words in John 8:12 offer incredible hope and promise.  Jesus says, “I am the Light of the World.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  Notice what Jesus says there.  The “light of the world” that He represents is the “light of life.”  In other words, the greatest piece of darkness that people are fearful of is the darkness of death.  One day, the lights of this life will come to an end for each of us, and (on our own) the darkness of death is terrifying.  

What will life after death be like?  On our own and without the revelation of God, we have no idea.  Where will I spend eternity?  Is death more of a “period” or a “comma” in the sentence of my life?  Have I lived my life “good enough” to be in a preferred spot, or could my eternity hold the unthinkable as a final destination?  These questions, like shadows on the floor of a child’s darkened room, frighten us and cause us to long for help … companionship or even light itself!

Jesus hears our cries of fear and does something amazing.  He comes to be with us and He lets us know that He is our light.  With Him, our future does not look so dark.  With Him, our journey beyond the door of death is not filled with uncertainty and judgment but is filled with promise and paradise.  Jesus says in 8:23-24, “You are from below; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”  Jesus was saying that eternity is a scary, dark place for those who “go it alone” because their sins will lead to an undesirable future.  However, if we believe that Jesus is who He claims to be (namely the Son of God and our Savior), then our future is much different—and infinitely better!

If the darkness of death frightens you, fear not.  Belief in Jesus Christ turns on the light of life to you for all eternity!

Jesus’ statement that “I am the Light of the World” is the second revelatory statement mentioned by John arguing that Jesus is God.

This devo is a part of the 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us.”  You can find the entire Christmas Devotional here.

December 2 – Jesus is God: Sign #5

Growing up I had always feared the weight room.  I played organized sports my entire life, but somehow, by playing football, basketball, and running track, I was able to avoid ever having an off season for weight training!  It was not the weights that scared me, it was the other people I would find there.  Now, my high school weight room was not the dwelling place of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but his picture was on the wall (an encouragement to participate in the Presidential National Fitness Challenge), and the weight room placed me in close context with other people who, no doubt, could lift considerably more than I could.  I lived in fear that I would have to share a workout with D’Angelo who would be bench pressing 250 pounds while I was struggling to raise just the bar.

As an adult, I have a new-found interest in weight lifting.  I have found that the gym is a place where many people, just like me, are just trying to stay fit and “tone their cores.”  We all have roughly the same goal in mind.  Sure, I may start with less weight on the bar than most, but raising that bar is still a good workout for me.  Over time and with proper exercise, raising that bar will make me stronger so that I can lift more tomorrow than I can lift today.  This is the progressive and proportional nature of weight lifting.

I was thinking of this idea as I was reading Matthew 14:22-33 (and its parallel account in John 6).  In this story, the disciples were on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee amidst a fierce storm when Jesus came walking to them on top of the water.  What an amazing site this must have been!  There were twelve disciples in that boat that saw Jesus walking on the water.  Upon seeing the figure on top of the water, eleven of them decided that it must be a ghost.  Eleven of them kept their mouths shut.  Eleven of them trembled in fear.  One of them spoke.  In Matthew 14:28, Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus said, “Come!” and while eleven other men watched with wide eyes, Peter hopped the side of the boat and walked ON TOP OF THE WATER in the direction of Christ.  Now, after Peter got a good distance from the boat, he began to realize that he was walking on top of the water.  This sudden realization led to Peter taking his eyes off Christ and sinking into the sea.

When Peter sank, Jesus spoke and said in 14:31, “You of little faith.  Why did you doubt?”  Now the question comes.  Why would Jesus say this to Peter?  Why not say this to the other eleven men cowering in the boat with their jaws on the deck.  Why call Peter out?  I think the answer to this question (while I cannot know for sure) is found in the weight room at the local fitness club.

You see, Jesus’ goal for every person is that they would grow in their faith in Him.  Jesus wants us to trust Him.  Though His goal for each of us is the same, by faith, each of us (at different times in our lives) can “lift” different amounts.  Some can only lift the bar and others can bench press a mobile home.  Spiritually speaking this translates into the fact that our faith grows over time as we exercise it.  It is a significant faith step for a mature Christian to trust God with cancer or the death of a child, but it is also an equally significant step of faith for a new Christian to trust God with the forgiveness of his or her sins—something that a more mature Christian had trusted Christ with long ago.  Our faith grows over time, and as God grows our faith, each day/season/year is filled with different “weights” that God has placed on the bar.  

Based on who Peter was and all that Jesus had taken Him through (including the initial steps he took on the water) Jesus wanted Peter to persist in that faith and lift even more.  Once Peter walked on the water, Jesus expected him to keep walking.  For the rest of the disciples in the boat, their faith steps may have had less “weight.”  Their faith steps may have involved just ceasing to be afraid, or believing that Jesus could really perform such a miracle.  This is the progressive nature of growth in the Christian life.

What about you?  As you live out your life today, what are the weights that God is asking you to lift by faith?  It is probably different for every person, but they all have the same goal … to grow us in our depth of relationship with Jesus Christ.  Don’t spend a lot of time comparing yourself to others, growing fearful of participating in the spiritual life because you don’t think you can lift as much as the next guy.  Know that Christ has put the weight on your bar that is appropriate for you to grow in faith.  Believe that and then trust Him.  If you do, you will find that your faith is stronger tomorrow than it is today.

Jesus walking on water is the fifth miraculous sign John records arguing that Jesus is God.  May we grow in our faith in Him!

 

This devo is a part of the 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us.”  You can find the entire Christmas Devotional here.

December 1 – Jesus is God: Saying #1

Growing up there were two toys I always THOUGHT I wanted, but never got.  These toys looked awesome in TV commercials and on the pages of the JC Penny Christmas catalog.  They were always surrounded by boys about my age looking like they had just won the lottery.  What were these toys?  The tabletop electronic football game, and the electronic slot race tracks.  

They looked awesome, so I often asked for them for Christmas, or birthday, or whatever.  However, I never got them.  Why?  Because I did not have parents who loved me?  No.  I did not get them because I DID have parents who loved me, and understood that these gifts were not all they were cracked up to be.  They both promised happiness in a flashy package, but they did not deliver the lasting enjoyment that other gifts would.

The tabletop electronic football game (after all) was just a vibrating board.  The slot race track was only fun the first time around.  After the initial excitement of opening the package, disappointment would almost surely soon follow.

In John 6, Jesus was reaching new heights in popularity.  He had just fed thousands of people and performed a number of other miracles that demonstrated His power and compassion.  People were flocking to Him from throughout the Galilean region.  Every time Jesus and the disciples would bring their boat ashore, a crowd was waiting for them.  One day as Jesus went ashore, the congregation was asking Him to do more miracles.  They had eaten the lunch at the feeding of the 5,000 and now had come back for seconds.  They said to Jesus, “Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness.”  The implication … God provided food EVERY DAY to the Israelites in the wilderness.  So, they were saying to Jesus, “If you are really from God, then give us DAILY bread and fish, like God did during the days of Moses.”

Jesus response is classic.  A summary of His response goes like this, “You want bread and fish … but I want to give you something even greater!  I want to give you a ‘bread’ that is truly life giving.”  The people respond saying, “YES!! We want that!  Can you give us this bread ALWAYS?”  To which Jesus responds with the iconic statement, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”

Jesus did not give the people of Galilee another meal of bread and fish BECAUSE He loved them.  They thought they knew what they wanted, but God knew what they REALLY wanted, and (more importantly) needed.  They needed Him, not just fish and loaves.  They needed Someone to fill their souls, not just something to fill their stomachs.  The One who would truly satisfy their deepest thirsts and hungers was Jesus Christ Himself, the “One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

We think we know what we want, so we ask for it.  We want happiness and joy so (like a child looking at the JC Penny Christmas catalog) we ask for the relationships, things, or experiences we think that will best deliver these emotions.  What are you asking for this Christmas?

Our Heavenly Father hears our prayers and receives our wish list … our Christmas catalogs filled with circled items we desire.  As our loving Father, thankfully, He does not just give us what we ask for.  Instead He gives us what we desperately need … a real relationship with Him and the soul nourishing provision that comes from a relationship with Jesus.  

He is the bread of life.  And if we receive Him, He can satisfy our deepest hungers and greatest thirsts eternally.

“I am the Bread of Life” is the first revelatory “I am” statement Jesus made, further revealing His divine identity to us

This devo is a part of the 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us.”  You can find the entire Christmas Devotional here.

November 30 – Jesus is God: Sign #4

When my son was young, I wore many hats.  On any given day, I might have to serve the function of a jungle gym, an elevator, a taxi driver, and a tour guide … and that is just after 5:00 PM!  Before you begin to think that I was one of the original Wonder Twins from the 1970’s “Superfriends” television show or a raging lunatic, I need to explain.  While I was not actually becoming any of those tasks vocationally, I was performing their functions for my (then) sixteen month old son, Joshua.  

Being so small at that time, Joshua found himself in situations of need frequently.  If he wanted to climb and swing, he needed someone to climb on or to swing him around.  If he wanted to go up one floor (from the floor of our sunken living room to the hallway leading to the rest of the house), he needed someone to lift him.  If he wanted to get outside and see the world, I either needed to drive the car or push the stroller.   Because of his need, he cried out frequently for help.

Now, as Joshua’s father, I loved wearing the hats he asked me to wear.  There has come a day when he no longer wants to wrestle on the floor while watching a basketball game.  There will come a day when he will be able to drive himself where he wants to go.  There has come a day when climbing the steps to the rest of the house became an after thought.  But before those days came, I was all too excited to hear him cry out in need.  I loved wearing all those hats to help meet his needs.

Two thousand years ago, as Jesus was living on this earth and was in the process of training His disciples (and by extension, training you and I who read of their experiences in the New Testament), He knew that a necessary component of a vibrant spiritual life would be a child-like sense of need.  By virtue of our sinful tendencies and God’s lofty calling, by ourselves—spiritually speaking—we are very small … therefore we frequently find ourselves in situations of great need.  Our spiritual need is not partial, it is total.  Jesus wanted His disciples to know this, and that is why He led them to a remote place among a hungry crowd to teach them a lesson.

In John 6:1-15, Jesus led His disciples into the countryside among 5,000 men, not counting women and children.  When it came time to eat, Jesus asked Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”  This is a very funny question for Jesus to ask!  Sure, Philip grew up in the area in which John 6 took place and most likely knew the whereabouts of all the grocery stores and restaurants nearby, but buying food for all these people would cost an amount far greater than the disciples had available to them.  Even if Philip knew of a grocery store next door, they would not be able to afford the cost of giving everyone even a light snack, much less a full dinner.  Jesus asked this question, not because He was unaware of their financial situation, but because He wanted to “test him (Philip), for He (Jesus) already knew what He was going to do (6:6).”  Jesus had planned all along to provide the food for the whole crowd in a miraculous way; He just wanted to make sure that Philip and the rest of the disciples recognized their need and thus could recognize God’s supernatural provision.  In the end, Jesus blessed a few fish and loaves so that they fed everyone present, with twelve basketfuls of leftovers!  Jesus gave each of the twelve disciples their own basket full of reminders that He was able to meet any need.

As adults, we tend to see problems as things we need to fix, pay for, or solve.  Since we are grown, we tend to think that we do not need or even deserve any help; therefore we often do not cry out.  We think we are supposed to have the resources necessary to meet all of life’s demands all by ourselves.  We may fear that any cry for help is a sign of weakness and might even bother God or cause Him to think less of us.  If this is you, then remember that Jesus wants us to have child-like faith.  This is the kind of faith that caused a small boy to offer a few measly fish and loaves to a hungry mob.  Any adult would tell you the boy’s offering was not enough, but any adult who said this would be forgetting the One who would be doing the feeding.

Spiritually speaking, we are like sixteen month olds with many needs requiring someone who wears many hats to come to our rescue.  We need someone who can be a doctor, a counselor, and an empowerer every moment of our lives.  When we realize this and cry out, Jesus hears our cries and comes to our rescue.  In fact, He loves wearing the many hats we ask Him to wear because in this life, we will never grow out of our state of dependence.   

The feeding of the 5,000 is the fourth miraculous sign John shares to argue of Jesus’ divinity.  Only God could meet such a need!

 

This devo is a part of the 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us.”  You can find the entire Christmas Devotional here.

November 29 – Jesus is God: Sign #3

In 1871, a wide spot in the road just outside of Washington DC got a new name – “Bethesda, Maryland.”  Up to that time, this little rural community was called “Darcy’s Store” because the only store in the “town” was run by (you guessed it) a man named Darcy!  In 1871, though, the postmaster changed the name of the town to Bethesda, naming it after a Presbyterian Church in that community by the same name.  This community would have stayed small and off the radar were it not for two massive government buildings constructed in its city limits during the 1940’s:  The National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Bethesda Naval Hospital.  These two places of health and healing are what the town of Bethesda are currently known for … and the name is quite fitting!

The name “Bethesda” actually comes from a location in Jerusalem.  In Hebrew, Bethesda means “House of Kindness” and in the first century (while Jesus was walking the streets of Jerusalem) there was a particular pool named Bethesda where sick people would gather and wait for a “supernatural stirring of the waters” believing that the first one to enter the waters after such a stirring would be healed of their infirmity.  In John 5:1-18, the account of a particular lame man is told who had been sitting by the waters of the Pool of Bethesda for 38 years waiting for his healing.  38 years!

When Jesus finds this man, He asks him a peculiar question, “Do you want to be healed?”  At first glance, this seems like a question only Captain Obvious would ask … OF COURSE he would want to be healed!  But look at the situation more closely.  For 38 years this man’s plan was to wait for the waters to stir and then be the first one into the pool.  However, the man was at the Pool of Bethesda alone … and he was unable to walk.  So his plan for 38 years was nothing more than hopeless fantasy.  IF the waters stirred, and IF there was supernatural healing in them (two big “ifs”) then the lame man would have to somehow get down into the water himself, while being unable to move.  Jesus sees the sad situation and calls it out.  It is as if Jesus says, “Your plan is broken.  But if you want to be healed, can I offer you an alternative?”  

Seeing the look of longing and desperation in the lame man’s eyes, Jesus says to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”  And guess what … HE DID!  The man who had not walked, walked.  The man who had the hopeless plan, had a bright future!  Jesus was able to do what the broken plan could not – give the lame man his legs back.  Jesus was able to produce what was desperately needed – hope and life.

In this account we learn something important.  Kindness is not found in a place (remember, Bethesda means “house of kindness.”)  Kindness is found in a Person.  The Pool of Bethesda had been there for years, but when Jesus showed up, He was able to truly deliver kindness to the lame man.  

For a couple of millennia now, the term “Bethesda” has been placed on hospitals and places where care is administered to the sick and wounded.  A town in Maryland that houses the NIH and a large military hospital appropriately bears this name.  However, may we never forget the One who embodies Kindness, and the One who can deliver in Himself what no place ever could – hope and life and light. 

We go to places like pools or churches (appropriately so) to gather and to seek hope and life.  However, as we show up in church this Christmas season, don’t just look at the decorations on the wall.  Instead look for and learn about the One from whom Kindness flows:  Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The healing of this lame man is the third miraculous sign John records pointing to Jesus being God.

 

This devo is a part of the 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us.”  You can find the entire Christmas Devotional here.

November 28 – Jesus is God: Sign #2

Every year in elementary school, there was one event that attempted to separate the mental men from the boys … one event that drew the attention of students and parents everywhere.  What was this event?  The Science Fair.  Every year, I would make a project … and I would lose every time.

While some students were discovering the theory of relativity, I was relatively impressed with my project, “Which carpet cleaner works best: Scotch or Resolve?”!  While some students were putting together computer “mother boards” to power robots that could make dinner for you, my mother was impressed by my card board box covered with hand drawn images that represented video games I “designed,” complete with a tape recording of me making the related sounds these games would produce.  

Every year, as the projects would be displayed at the fair, and as all the ribbons would go to my friends, I would begin to rationalize my performance.  “My friends must not have designed their own projects,” I would muse.  “Their fathers who are research scientists must have worked on their projects for them.”  Of course, in my reasoning, the answer could not have been that they were just better at science than me.  There must be some other explanation!

As these friends have gone on in life to become engineers, research scientists, and medical doctors, however, I am forced to realize that my original assessment was not accurate.  Though I had the right information (their projects were better than mine), I was drawing the wrong conclusions (they must have cheated).

I was thinking about this reality as I read John 4:43-5:15 and pondered the reactions people had to the miracles of Christ.  Compared to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, His actions and methodology stood out in their power and authority.  Though people all saw these same awesome acts of Jesus Christ, they all did not respond in the same way.  When the royal official from Capernaum was told by Christ that his son would be healed, the official “took Jesus at His word and departed.”  In the next few verses we find out that the royal official and all his household believed in Jesus Christ.  Later in the passage, though, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, after seeing Jesus heal a lifelong paralytic, assumed that Jesus was cheating the Father’s Sabbath.  The royal official in Capernaum and the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem both got right information about Jesus Christ, but they each had different responses.  Though the Jewish leaders had correct information, they made the wrong conclusion.  

Jesus Christ is the Son of God (as these miraculous signs reveal), and His actions are always impressive, and they are always right; however, sometimes, we find ourselves not reacting rightly to the revelation of Jesus that we receive.  Sometimes when things don’t work out the way we had hoped, we might be tempted to draw the incorrect conclusion that Jesus is not in control or that He does not care about us in our time of need.  While it may be true that things are not working out according to our plan, it is wrong to ever conclude that Jesus is anything less than our holy and loving God.  

The spiritual life is not simply a life of observation; it is a life of our response to God’s revelation.  We should follow the example of the royal official and always take Jesus at His word and believe.

The healing of the official’s son is the second “sign” that John records revealing that Jesus is God.

 

This devo is a part of the 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us.”  You can find the entire Christmas Devotional here.

God with us (part 1) Sermon Audio, Video, & Questions

On Sunday, November 27, 2022 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a message based on Isaiah 7:1-16 and Matthew 1:22-23.  This message was part 1 of the “God with us” sermon series.  Below you will find questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.  You will also find the audio and video of the message to listen to/watch, download, or share.

Additionally, you can access the daily devotional “God with us” for use during the Christmas season by clicking here.  Each daily devotion will also be posted to this blog each morning.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Isaiah 7:1-16 and Matthew 1:22-23
  3. Has there ever been a time when you have observed the celebration of Christmas and felt like “that is too much”?  What contributed to your thought process in making that determination?
  4. We are very familiar with the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.  Have you ever studied this passage to see its Old Testament context?  In what ways does knowing its Old Testament context help us to understand the significance of Jesus’ birth?
  5. The enemy armies caused the nation of Judah to have their “hearts shake like trees.”  What causes your heart to fear?  How would “placing that fear on the timeline” help you in quieting that fear?
  6. The birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary is THE sign that Jesus is not just an ordinary man, but God Himself who will deliver us from our sins.  How does the virgin birth help accomplish this (remember the reasons for the virgin birth we talked about in this morning’s message)?  
  7. Since Jesus is God, it changes everything.  What does it change for you?
  8. What is one particular application you took away from this passage/message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

 

To listen offline, click the link:

God With Us #1 11.27.22

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the service, use YouTube online: