December 9 – Jesus is God: Saying #6

At the top of a waterfall, high above beautiful Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada, sits a most peculiar tea house.  This tea house is a beautiful site:  a log cabin equipped with a wood burning stove to heat hot tea for weary hikers.  The cabin was built atop this waterfall by the Canadian Pacific Railway many years ago as a diversion for passengers to enjoy while the train was stopped in this mountain villa.  

Back in the summer of 2000, my sister-in-law, her husband, and I decided to hike the 2,000 foot ascent to get to this tea house while on vacation in the Banff area. Before we began our hike, we asked someone in the Chateau at the Lake’s edge how to get to this tea house.  They told us that you had to take the “horse trail” to the top.  This was because heavy snow still covered the ground on the high country trail and made any other route impassable to the tea house’s locale.  Upon receiving these instructions, we were faced with two options:  1. We could take their expert advice, ascend the horse trail, and enjoy the benefits of the tea house experience.  2.  We could assume that the instructions we received were an exaggeration, and we could try to find our own way to the top.

While those two options do exist, only one of the two of those options is really a valid or wise choice.  We had never been to Lake Louise before, but the people we got the advice from were employees of the park and were paid good money to help people like us get to the top of that tea house trail.  Therefore, we took their advice and hiked the “horse trail” to get to the top. 

After having our tea in those beautiful surroundings, I decided to test the advice we had been given.  Instead of heading down the horse trail like my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, I decided to blaze my own trail and follow a different path back down the mountain.  About ten minutes into my journey, I realized what a mistake that was.  I soon lost the “path” and found myself waist deep in powdery snow, trying to find a way to retreat back to the tea house and gallop back down the “horse trail.”  Some might have thought the advice we received was closed-minded and narrow, but in reality, it was just plain fact.  If we wanted to go up or down the mountain, there was really only one trail to take.

I was thinking of this story as I read John 14.  In John 14, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to heaven to prepare a place for them . . . a place He would one day come back and take them to.  After Jesus told them of this place, He also told them of the only way they could make it to heaven:  through Him.  He said in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”    In a sense, Jesus says that at the pinnacle of life is a beautiful place prepared for you.  However, in order to get to that place, there is only one trail you can take:  through Him.

Now Jesus’ exclusive claim on the way to God may sound narrow or closed-minded to our 21st century ears, but in reality, it is just plain fact.  If there were other ways, He (who knows all) would have told us about them.  However, Jesus knew that there is only one way to God, and that all other efforts to reach Him will only leave us “waist deep in snow” and helpless on the hillside of life.  The only way to a holy God is by means of someone who can make us clean and acceptable in His sight.  Since we are all sinful people, we all need cleansing, and the kind of cleansing we need can only be provided by Christ Himself.  The paths of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Secularism sound promising, but do not lead you up the mountain of God.  Only by faith in Jesus Christ can we make it to paradise.

Faced with these instructions, we are faced with two options:  1. We could take Jesus’ expert advice, place our eternity into His capable nail-scarred hands, and enjoy the unspeakable joy of an eternity in “the Father’s House.”  2.  We could assume that Jesus’ instructions are an exaggeration, and try to find our own way to the top.  While both of these options exist, only one of them is really a valid or wise choice.  There is only one path that leads to the top.  As we follow Christ, He will always keep us on the right trail.

Jesus’ statement “I am the way, the truth, and the life” is the sixth 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.

 

December 8 – Jesus is God: Saying #5

As we lined up along the free throw line, we were one miss, three seconds, and ninety feet away from victory.  We were trailing our opponent by two points in the 12th Street Recreational Center Fall Church League Tournament, and one of their players was on the free throw line with a chance to clinch the game with a pair of free throws.  If he missed, we would have a chance to take the ball the length of the court for a last second desperation heave for victory.  I wanted the chance to take that heave. So, when his free throw fell short, I grabbed the ball, turned and began sprinting towards our goal.  And that is when I fell down.

Now, I don’t know how many times I have played in my mind or practiced in my driveway this very scenario (three seconds left, down two, with a chance to make the shot and win the game), but never in my fantasies has the play ever ended with me falling to the ground!  But in real life, that is exactly what happened.  I wanted to take the shot, but I ended up feeling as though I had been shot instead— a loud pop preceded intense pain as I ruptured my right Achilles tendon.  Oh yeah … and we lost the game.

The next day, I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who told me that he could stitch my leg back together and make me “just like new.”  Sure enough, one week later I had surgery, but I soon found out that becoming “just like new” was not as simple as just having surgery.  After surgery, my leg was casted, immobile and sore—it took six months of physical therapy and hard work to get the “just like new” leg I was waiting for.  The surgery brought the possibility of life and mobility back to my leg, but actual life and function would not return to my leg for quite some time.

In John 11, Jesus received word that his friend Lazarus was very ill and in need of help.  After waiting two days before beginning the journey to Lazarus’ side, Jesus arrived at Bethany (Lazarus’ hometown) to find that Lazarus had already died and had been in the tomb for four days.  

When Jesus arrived, He talked with Lazarus’ sister Martha.  Jesus said to Martha in 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”  Jesus told Martha this (and John recorded it for us) so that when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, everyone might see the larger significance of this mighty miracle.  More than just returning life to one dead man, Jesus was offering resurrection AND life to all who would believe in His name.

After making this declaration, Jesus moved to the tomb where He ordered the stone to be rolled back, opening the door for the dead man (Lazarus) to come forth.  With a loud cry, Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”—and out walked Lazarus, still bound in the clothes that they had used to bury him.  Jesus then ordered people to cut the grave clothes off of his body, freeing Lazarus to live life.  John 12:2 records for us that Lazarus’ health did return immediately, and he was seen at a feast with Christ just a short time later.

When Jesus said that He was both the resurrection and the life, He was implying something very significant.  Sometimes we may think that Jesus’ salvation is like surgery.  He, our heavenly Surgeon, goes in and creates the potential for life by stitching up our wounds and extracting sin’s ultimate consequence from our lives.  Though we understand Christ’s role as Surgeon, we often think of our spiritual lives as physical therapy … a lengthy process where we ourselves have to work very hard to restore life to an otherwise dysfunctional situation.  When we hear that Jesus is the resurrection, we sometimes think that as Christians we are like the “living dead,” saved from our sin eternally, but fully bound by its restrictive grave clothes in the present.  If this is your attitude, remember that Jesus says that He is both the resurrection AND the life.  He not only restores the potential for life, but He also provides the life itself—immediately.  Like Lazarus who was not just given breath, but was cut free from his grave clothes, so Jesus offers us not just eternal hope for tomorrow, but every help for today!

Therefore if you know Christ, remember that He has done more than just raise you from the consequences of your sin; He has offered you the abundant life here and now with Him.  Remember that He has cut off the grave clothes of your sin and invited you to a feast, living in obedience with Him today.

Jesus’ statement “I am the resurrection and the life” is the fifth 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.

December 7 – Jesus is God: Sign #7

There is a string of internet memes flowing across social media today with a common tag line, “show me you are ________ without saying that you are ___________.”  For example, show me a picture that you were a fan of the Oklahoma Sooners football team in the 1980’s without just saying you were a fan during that era … then posting a picture of you with a “Boz” haircut.  

This standard meme can be applied in any number of situations, so let’s apply it to people who lived at the time of Jesus.  One question you might ask first century friends of Jesus is this, “Show me you believe Jesus is God without just telling me that Jesus is God.”  If you were to ask this of Martha (sister of Lazarus and Mary), she might reply with the picture of John 11:17-27 … with an emphasis on John 11:21 and 11:25-27.  

In these verses, Lazarus (Martha’s brother) had died, and she is mourning his loss.  While Lazarus was still sick, Martha (and her sister Mary) had sent for Jesus and asked Him to come and help, yet Jesus delayed, and arrived after Lazarus had already passed.  In John 11:21, Martha says to Jesus, “If you had been here, Lazarus would not have died.”  Now this is a massive statement.  In it, Martha is acknowledging that Jesus had sovereign power over death and illness.  Then, (in John 11:25-27) after Jesus tells her that Lazarus will be raised to new life, Martha says that she knows this will happen “on the last day.”  Jesus responds that He is the One who makes salvation on the “last day” possible, and asks if Martha believes that to be true, and she nods her head in agreement.  So in this meme of a scene, Martha is saying that Jesus is sovereign over illness, death, salvation, and the end of the world.  Who could possibly be that powerful?  Only God Himself.  Martha’s actions indicate that she believes that Jesus is God.

How about you?  Do your actions show that you believe Jesus is God?  Do you turn to Him when things are tough, or do you look to other forms of deliverance?  Who sits in the seat of authority over your understanding of “wrong and right,” is it Jesus and His Word (the Bible) or is it your ideas or the ideas of your friends?  Whose “will” do you obey as the general pattern and direction of your life … your will or His?  

This Christmas, I want you to think about your life.  Daily ask the question … how can I show the world today that I believe Jesus is God?  Martha provides a great example for us to follow, and Jesus shows Himself worthy of her trust.  He will do the same for us.

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the seventh miraculous sign John references to argue 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 6 – Jesus is God: Saying #4

OK, let’s talk about Santa Claus.  This big man with a red suit visits your house one night a year, sliding down the chimney with his big bag of gifts.  What if this guy really existed … but what if you did not know about him?  What if Santa Claus was a real guy who really did the entire “Night Before Christmas”  thing, but you had never heard the story?  Now if Santa Claus did exist, and you did not know anything about him, how would you react at midnight on December 24 if you heard a “thud” on your rooftop?  As you would spring to your feet to see what was the matter, you would find a grown man in a red suit packing (or unpacking … from your angle it is tough to say) an overgrown pillow case worth of stuff in your living room!  What would you do?  I know what you would do.  You would either call the cops or grab your shotgun!  But why would anyone do that to good old Saint Nick?

If we were unaware of the existence of Santa Claus, we would not be thinking that ANYONE breaking into our house at midnight was there to bring us stuff.  Living in this fallen world has convinced us that people come to our houses unannounced to take stuff, not give stuff.  This is why we lock our doors, install security systems, and “let the machine get it” when the phone rings at dinner time.  For the most part, this world has shown us that people come to us primarily for their benefit, and not for our own … and so we are skeptical.

With this as a backdrop, I want to remind you all of a true story of someone who comes to us to give rather than to take, and it is found in John 10:9-10.

In John 10:9-10, Jesus says this: “I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  In these verses, Jesus is saying that He has come to us not to take, but to give something wonderful:  “life … to the full.”  If Jesus came to give, why do we have the perspective that what He really wants is to take from us?

Now, you may not have thought about this before, but we really do (sometimes) have the perspective that Jesus comes to take from us, not to give.  We sometimes feel that He came to “take” the fun out of our lives.  Many of the things we think we would want to do and that we are tempted to do are things that exist on the forbidden list in God’s economy.  Don’t have sex outside of marriage.  Don’t get drunk on alcohol and don’t use drugs.  Don’t tear each other down with your words.  Don’t harbor anger towards another.  Sometimes we can think that all these commandments take more than they give.  Our experience in the world has conditioned us to think that anyone coming to us wants to take, not to give, so when we see what Christ is offering, we are waiting for the catch.  

However, as I read John 10, I am struck by this incredible reminder that a thief takes, but Jesus always gives.  In fact, He not only gives, but He gives unbelievable gifts!  Jesus comes to us offering the best life possible.  Being the creator and author of life, He knows what is best for us, and He guides us through the gates of everyday life to the green pastures of abundant living.  All the things we thought He was taking away through commandments are really just directions guiding us to the location of abundant living.  

Therefore, the next time you read the Bible and see commands from Christ, do not imagine that these are the words of someone who has come to take from us.  Do not be unaware of Jesus’ existence or be skeptical of His intentions—He has come for our benefit, to give us the abundant life!

Jesus’ statement “I am the sheep gate” is the fourth 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.

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.